ESSA: What LEAs must consider for local education plans

As state ESSA plans are being approved, Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are gearing up to start drafting their plans for their local school districts. Section 1006 in ESSA outlines what LEAs are responsible for to meet their objectives of the approved state plan. Now, I want to break down the policy jargon and clearly explain the priorities LEAs need to have moving forward with their plan development.

Stakeholder Engagement

Under ESSA, LEAs are required to engage with stakeholders including teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, charter school leaders, administrators, parents and students. LEAs are required to meet with stakeholders to develop numerous education plans within ESSA. They are also required to have ongoing meetings to amend the plans in the future. It is critical for LEAs to have procedures in place to regularly meet with all the different stakeholder groups to gather their feedback on different components of the comprehensive and targeted school improvement plans.

Title I Comprehensive and Targeted School Improvement Plan
The school improvement plan must create and implement a program that will monitor all students’ progress towards meeting the academic state standards. This plan must address all performance indicators outlined in the state ESSA plan including “long term goals. . . evidence based interventions. . . a school level needs assessment. . . [and] identify resource inequities.” After these plans are implemented, the State Education Agency is required to regularly monitor the programs in relation to the goals and guidelines of the state ESSA plan.
The program also identifies low performing students and gives them the appropriate additional help they need for them to perform to the level of the state standards. Some of these specific requirements that the plans must address include:
– Programs for homeless students
– Strategies for students in foster care or juvenile detention facilities
– Early Childhood Program performance standards
– Procedures for effective parent and family engagement
– Transition programs for students from Early Childhood Education to Kindergarten, from Middle school to High School, and from High School to post-secondary education.
– Plans to reduce the overuse of out of school suspension practices
– Programs related to Career and Technical Education (CTE)
– Services for gifted and talented students
– Plan to develop effective library facilities in each school.
The LEA’s plan must also address how they will ensure certain programs are implemented in their area. These assurances include:
– Making sure eligible migratory children receiving appropriate services
– Ensuring private school students receiving services if they are eligible
– Selected schools participate in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)
– Collaboration occurs between schools and local child welfare agencies and each assigns an internal point of contact
– Services are efficiently integrated for English Language Learners, students with disabilities, homeless children, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian children to reduce redundancy
– Procedures are developed for the transportation of foster students to continue attending their original school when it is in their best interest
– Making sure all teachers and paraprofessionals meet the state certification requirements.
Schools must also inform parents about their child’s academic progress and achievement. This is typically done in a form or report card or parent teacher conferences. Parents also often want to know information about state standardized tests that students take each year. The LEA is required to inform parents that they have the option to “opt out” their child from the state assessment. The LEA is also required to give parents information about the content and purpose of the state assessment, and what information is gained from students participating. This is especially critical for parents who are considering opting out of the state assessment, so that they can make an informed decision after understanding the assessment itself.
English Language Learners (ELL)
LEAs must inform parents of ELLs that have been recommended for language programs no later than 30 days after the school year begins or 2 weeks if the recommendation occurs in the middle of the school year. The notification to parents must include:
– Why the child was recommended to the program
– Student’s current proficiency level
– Methods of instruction and curriculum used in the program, and how this program will meet the specific needs of the student
– Various program options that are available to the student
– Exit requirement of the program
– Informing parents of their right to remove their child from the program at any time or to decline the initial enrollment of their child into the program.
After the student is enrolled in a program, regular meetings about the student’s progress must be held to inform parents of their child’s status.
Under the new ESSA provisions, states have a lot of flexibility when creating their strategies to meet the federal requirements. This same flexibility is given to the LEAs. LEAs are encouraged to customize their plans to meet their specific local needs. Like the state plans, stakeholder engagement continues to be a crucial part of the process so that the plan can truly represent the community it serves.