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First Round of ESSA State Plans Are Due April 3rd to a USDOE Severely Lacking in Senior Officials

April 2, 2017

According to a March 13, 2017, letter that US ed sec Betsy DeVos sent to chief state school officers, states are able to submit their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for two possible deadlines: April 03, 2017, or September 18, 2017.

In that letter, DeVos writes that the state plans will be peer reviewed and that the US Dept of Ed (USDOE) will be in contact with state officers as the applications proceed through the peer review process.

But she does not detail who, exactly, will be in charge of the applications. Who will be responsible for coordinating this peer-reviewed process?

 Betsy DeVos

I suppose that is difficult to detail at this point since DeVos has almost no USDOE senior officials in place in her Department. (I’ll return to this point.)

However, according to the ESSA legislation, here is what is supposed to happen (see pages 20-22):

(4) PEER REVIEW AND SECRETARIAL APPROVAL.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall—

(i) establish a peer-review process to assist in the review of State plans;

(ii) establish multidisciplinary peer-review teams and appoint members of such teams—

(I) who are representative of—

(aa) parents, teachers, principals, other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and the community (including the business community); and

(bb) researchers who are familiar with—

(AA) the implementation of academic standards, assessments, or accountability systems; and

(BB) how to meet the needs of disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, and English learners, the needs of low-performing schools, and other educational needs of students;

(II) that include, to the extent practicable, majority representation of individuals who, in the most recent 2 years, have had practical experience in the classroom, school administration, or State or local government (such as direct employees of a school, local educational agency, or State educational agency); and

(III) who represent a regionally diverse cross-section of States;

(iii) make available to the public, including by such means as posting to the Department’s website, the list of peer reviewers who have reviewed State plans under this section;

(iv) ensure that the peer-review teams consist of varied individuals so that the same peer reviewers are not reviewing all of the State plans;

(v) approve a State plan not later than 120 days after its submission, unless the Secretary meets the requirements of clause (vi);

(vi) have the authority to disapprove a State plan only if—

(I) the Secretary—

(aa) determines how the State plan fails to meet the requirements of this section;

(bb) immediately provides to the State, in writing, notice of such determination, and the supporting information and rationale to substantiate such determination;

(cc) offers the State an opportunity to revise and resubmit its State plan, and provides the State—

(AA) technical assistance to assist the State in meeting the requirements of this section;

(BB) in writing, all peer-review comments, suggestions, recommendations, or concerns relating to its State plan; and

(CC) a hearing, unless the State declines the opportunity for such hearing; and

(II) the State—

(aa) does not revise and resubmit its State plan; or

(bb) in a case in which a State revises and resubmits its State plan after a hearing is conducted under subclause (I)(cc)(CC), or after the State has declined the opportunity for such a hearing, the Secretary determines that such revised State plan does not meet the requirements of this section.

(B) PURPOSE OF PEER REVIEW.—The peer-review process shall be designed to—

(i) maximize collaboration with each State;

(ii) promote effective implementation of the challenging State academic standards through State and local innovation; and

(iii) provide transparent, timely, and objective feedback to States designed to strengthen the technical and overall quality of the State plans.

(C) STANDARD AND NATURE OF REVIEW.—Peer reviewers shall conduct an objective review of State plans in their totality and out of respect for State and local judgments, with the goal of supporting State- and local-led innovation and providing objective feedback on the technical and overall quality of a State plan. ‘

(D) PROHIBITION.—Neither the Secretary nor the political appointees of the Department, may attempt to participate in, or influence, the peer-review process.

(5) PUBLIC REVIEW.—All written communications, feedback, and notifications under this subsection shall be conducted in a manner that is transparent and immediately made available to the public on the Department’s website, including—

(A) plans submitted or resubmitted by a State;

(B) peer-review guidance, notes, and comments and the names of the peer reviewers (once the peer reviewers have completed their work);

(C) State plan determinations by the Secretary, including approvals or disapprovals; and

(D) notices and transcripts of hearings under this section.

As per ESSA, USDOE has 120 days to communicate with each state regarding its submitted plan’s approval or disapproval.

Yet according to the USDOE website, the deputy secretary position remains vacant, as is the undersecretary position.

All nine of the US ed assistant secretary positions remain vacant.

Both assistant deputy positions are vacant.

All five executive directorships remain vacant.

And all six directorships are vacant.

Only three senior official positions are currently filled:

  • Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General
  • Jason Gray, Chief Information Officer
  • Tim Soltis, Chief Financial Officer

So, which of these senior staffers will be in charge of ESSA?

Or will DeVos do it herself?

However, (and aside from the 24 senior staff vacancies noted above), it seems that as of April 02, 2017, Trump has selected another USDOE senior official– Jeb Bush-connected Carlos Muñiz— for the position of general counsel. Muñiz awaits Senate approval.

Still, Muñiz will not be in charge of ESSA applications… unless USDOE is dysfunctional…. (Voice trails off….)

120 days.

120 days from April 03, 2017, is August 01, 2017.

Then, the second batch of ESSA applications is due September 18, 2017.

And DeVos cannot simply rubber-stamp the applications in the name of power-to-the-states because of the detailed, publicized, peer-review requirements.

This ought to be interesting.

_____________________________________________________________

Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

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7 Comments
  1. (D) PROHIBITION.—Neither the Secretary nor the political appointees of the Department, may attempt to participate in, or influence, the peer-review process.

    This will, indeed, be interesting! I have NO confidence in the makeup of the peer review groups BUT the quality should be pretty evident when those reviews are published!

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    And here is the fun part. The implementation of those plans is supposed to start in the 2017-2018 school year which means there is no way that any review is likely to happen and that Devos is blind to when a school year begins. She may outsource the review process to the CCSSO. They are already involved in providing some guidance.

    • Is it likely that little will actually change due to the fact that DeVos IS blind to the larger expectations of her new position?

  3. speakstrong32@gmail.com permalink

    Thank you for another excellent research piece! Your steadfast voice gives me hope!

    Do you know if the fed ed vacancies means that ESSA cannot move forward? Could it become null & void?

    Do you know if there is anyone actively watching to see if each state is complying with the requirements? I’m in CT & Gov. Malloy & SDE head Wentzell are just awful. There seems to be zero public input or transparency.

    Thank you! Cheryl

    >

    • That is up to the citizens of each state and we are watchdogging it here in Louisiana. As far as the Feds monitoring it, my experience and understanding is that they react to complaints sent to them from the states. My experience has also been (just my experience) that unless the complaint is of a civil rights nature (sent to OCR) the reaction is limited and insufficient.

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