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Question: Who Are the ESSA “Peer Reviewers” Selected to Review State Plans?

April 10, 2017

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state plans are to be reviewed by a group of individuals holding specific roles– and the reviewers are to be identified by name.

From the ESSA document (pages 20-21):


(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.

The US Department of Education (USDOE) website includes this ESSA page that has a link at the bottom, entitled, “ESSA State Plan Call for Peer Reviewers.”

The link is dead: “404– page not found.”

The dead page apologizes and notes that many pages are moved to new urls. However, a search for the new url– or even for the original via “do not send me to the new page” request– yields nothing.

So, I located the original page using Google Cache, which notes that Google last saved the page on April 03, 2017, at 17:24 GMT (which is the same as 1:24 p.m. in Washington, DC).

The page itself is noted as being last modified on 02/27/17.

The full text is below:

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Calling Peer Reviewers for ESSA State Plans

The U.S. Department of Education (the Department) is seeking highly qualified individuals to serve in a critical role as peer reviewers of State plans, as required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Under the ESSA, States will build on their experience making progress toward providing a high-quality, well-rounded education for all students. On November 29, 2016, the Department published final regulations that govern consolidated State plans under the ESSA. To facilitate the development of State plans, the Department published a required Consolidated State Plan template that aligns with the statutory and regulatory requirements. Under sections 1111(a)(4) and 8451(d) of the ESEA, the Department must facilitate a review by external peer reviewers of each State’s plan.

The ESSA requires that the Department establish multi-disciplinary peer review teams and appoint members of such teams that include:

  • Educators (e.g., teachers, principals or other school leaders, or specialized instructional support personnel);
  • State and local educational agency personnel;
  • Researchers who are familiar with the implementation of standards, assessments and accountability systems; and
  • Researchers who are familiar with 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.

To the extent practicable, the peer reviewers should represent a regionally diverse cross-section of States and include individuals who have had practical experience in the classroom, school administration, or State or local government (such as direct employees of a school, district, or State) in the past two years.

Peer reviewers will work individually and on a panel to evaluate whether each State plan meets statutory and regulatory requirements and the degree to which each State plan will support a comprehensive and coherent set of improvements in the areas of: consultation and performance management; academic assessments; accountability, support, and improvement for schools; supporting excellent educators; and supporting all students. Peer reviewers will make recommendations to the Department to inform our review and approval of each State’s plan.

Questions about this request for peer reviewers may be sent to

Application Process

We are no longer accepting applications at this time.


Peer reviewers must commit to the following review process:

  • Virtual peer reviewer training for approximately four hours during the week of March 21, 2017;
  • Read and provide detailed comments during off-site individual review for four-five State plans between April 3 and May 3; and
  • Participate in a 5-day panel review in Washington, DC in early May (specific dates to be established in early 2017).

The Department will conduct a second peer review process beginning in September 2017.

Conflict of Interest

Please be aware that any applicant’s selection as a peer reviewer for the State plan peer review will include a review for possible, apparent, and/or actual conflicts of interest. If a potential conflict of interest is identified, the Department will consider whether the applicant can participate as a peer reviewer in full compliance with all applicable Department policies and procedures designed to ensure the integrity of the Department’s process for reviewing and approving State plans.

Honorarium and Other Information

Peer reviewers will receive an honorarium for their time and effort, contingent upon satisfactory completion of the above requirements and consistent with the required schedule. Travel costs to the events in Washington, DC will also be covered.

Some observations:

  • If these peer reviewers were “virtually” trained the week of March 21, 2017 (for four hours, at that), and are already reviewing plans as of the April 03, 2017, state plan deadline (the first round of state plan submissions), then the peer reviewers have been selected. (Note that the webpage last updated 02/27/17 was “no longer accepting applications at this time.”)
  • If these peer reviewers have been selected, then they can (and should) be publicly identified. Otherwise, the public cannot know that the reviewers have indeed been selected and that these reviewers meet the criteria for review team membership.
  • The language of ESSA implies that USDOE is not obligated to publicize reviewer names until after state reviews are completed (i.e., “(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”). However, this failure to publicize supposedly selected reviewers appears to run counter to promoting public faith in the “transparency” of the state plan review process. Indeed, publicizing reviewers after the fact keeps the public in the dark during the review process and makes it convenient for USDOE to compose a fake listing of reviewers with no reliable leverage for the public to know otherwise.
  • USDOE’s deleting the call for peer reviewer webpage without a word and without offering any substitute to provide the public with information on this process seems bumbling as best and deceitful at worst. USDOE should not be deleting webpages designed to inform the public without offering further explanation.
  • At the very least, USDOE should offer the public a definite date that it plans to release the names of the state plan reviewers.
  • Given that USDOE has numerous senior-level official positions vacant, and given the market-driven-reform bent of USDOE, it is not unrealistic to expect that USDOE has somehow outsourced the entire ESSA state-plan review process. If that is true, the public deserves to know what organization(s) are involved in such outsourcing.
  • How much are individuals and/or organizations being paid to review ESSA state plans? If outsourcing is happening, what are the costs, and are there conflicts of interest at work?

US ed sec Betsy DeVos owes the American public these answers.

  Betsy DeVos


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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?.

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  1. Thanks for keeping us informed. Outsourced, yes, of course! Maybe reviewing these ESSA plans is posted on Craigslist.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The screwed up timeline and changed rules for peer reviews are a symptom of disfunction. But before the reviews even begin, I found serious efforts to steer state plans, by the usual suspects,. In Ohio, by a representative from the Gates foundation and a business “alliance” steered the process of getting and summarizing “strake holder input.” The CCSSO and WestEd have been steering as well. Meanwhile Bellwether Education Partners has appointed itself to serve as a “true blue” peer review manager, enlisting a lot of people in and around the charter and tech industries and devising their own criteria for reviewers to use. They intend to publish their reviews in June, which suggests they also hope to influence the second round of state plans, and also the shape and content of any publicity about the state ESSA plans. I started some informal background checks on those reviewers, beyond the bios at Bellwether. There is a lot of mischief in the works and the advanced PR is part of it.

  3. There is deep vein of corruption running through all the ‘peer reviewed’ grants and awards over the Obama years and into this first Trump/Devos year. Employees of one CMO or EMO, think tankers, relatives, consultants, etc of Dem or Repub pedigree wiil jump into peer role for a year then applicant another year, then peer again.
    This whole revolving door is worth a lawsuit to pry the historic/present lists out of their hands.

    It is just as clear in the Federal Charter School grants program too:

    CSP grants to “state entities”:

    NOTE: Even if you applied to be a peer reviewer in the past, please complete the Peer Reviewer Interest Survey as directed below by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on Friday, March 3, 2017 to be considered for a peer reviewer position for the 2017 State Entities competition. *If you have served as a CSP peer reviewer in the past and prefer to instead serve as a panel monitor, please note your interest in the peer reviewer interest survey.

    WHO: We are seeking peer reviewers from various professions and backgrounds with an understanding of the charter school sector and expertise in at least one of the following areas: Charter School Authorizing and Accountability; Charter School Policy; Charter School Research and Evaluation; Charter School Development and Implementation; or Charter School Grant Administration. Peer reviewers may have expertise in various geographies, including urban, suburban, rural, and tribal communities.

    WHAT: Peer reviewers will independently read, score, and provide timely, well written comments for State Entity grant applications submitted to the U.S. Department of Education under the CSP and travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in one week of in-person panel discussions.

    CSP Replication grant “call for peer reviewers”:

    2017 Peer Reviewers

    If you would like to be considered as a peer reviewer, please register yourself in our online peer reviewer database at (G5). To serve as a reviewer you will need to register in G5. The online registration requires you to submit your resume; please ensure your resume (maximum of 5 pages) includes a brief list of career highlights and/or outlines your specific expertise in the areas outlined above. Please do not exceed the five-page limit for resumes. When the system prompts you for your areas of specialization, please ensure you select “charter schools”, along with any other relevant areas.

    IF INTERESTED: In addition to the instructions above, please also email a copy of your current resume or vitae to, with the subject heading “CMO Peer Reviewer application”. Your resume should clearly address your charter school background or expertise. We ask that all interested reviewers register in G5 and email their resume no later than Monday, February 20, 2017. Resumes will be kept on file and panel reviewers will be notified on an as-needed basis. For more information, please contact

    • Laura H. Chapman permalink

      Thanks for the comment. This sure looks like a rubber stamp operation.

      I actually looked at two rounds of reviewer ratings of charter school applications during the Obama years.They were avaiable online.
      What a farce. Some of the information that reviewers should have seen was redacted–blocked out–on the grounds that it was “proprietary.” All of the ratings were inflated. Someone at USDE had determine the points that could be awarded for rating sections of each proposal. The scores on each section were summed for an overall rating. Almost all proposals earned the maximum of 90-100 points. Comments could be made, but few were in any way critical or if so, they were mealy mouthed. Tax payerss were funding cross-country air fare to recruit teachers, uniforms for kids, meet-ups with franchise operators, and PR to recruit teachers/ parents. Really gross.

  4. It’s hard to know if we should be paralyzed with anxiety that this chaos will allow more deregulated abuses or relieved by the fact that this obvious disconnected dependence upon inexperience will lead to zero legal power — without order, nothing has true impetus?

  5. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    This was in my mailbox late afternoon. I have not yet looked at all of the jargon and so on, but it pains me to see the National Endowmwnt for the Arts going overboard like this. NEA Highlights

    New Grant Competition
    The US Department of Education has announced a new competition of the Professional Development for Arts Educators (PDAE) program, which supports the implementation of high-quality model professional development programs for arts educators and other instructional staff in the arts. There is a pre-application webinar on April 26, the Intent to apply is due April 27, 2017 and the application deadline is May 30, 2017. To learn more click here.

    Become a Reviewer: Federal Grants
    Want to better understand the NEA review process? There is no better way than becoming an NEA reviewer. The Arts Education Office needs dedicated people to ensure a quality assessment of each application for direct learning, professional development, and collective impact projects. If you are interested in being considered, please send an email including your short bio to:

    The US Department of Education has issued a Call for Peer Reviewers for PDAE, who will be arts educators and arts-integration teachers; principals, school administrators, and professional development experts; and educational evaluators. Submit required information by April 28.

  6. “Who’s on first…”?

  7. Once again, I’m researching a topic and find Mercedes Schneider’s work an essential resource. Thanks for getting into the weeds, Mercedes.

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