The U.S. Department of Education released the final regulations for school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on Monday, November 28. In general, we believe these changes significantly strengthen the initial draft and represent an important step in using transparency as a lever for improving equity and excellence.
Clear accountability plans – implemented by states across the nation – are fundamental in ensuring that every student in the United States has access to an excellent education. Our comment on the draft regulation focused primarily on the new financial reporting requirement in ESSA and its implications for other aspects of the accountability requirements. We would like to highlight the following regulation changes that reflect some of the recommendations we submitted.
Per-Pupil Expenditure Reporting (Section 200.35)
The Department of Education adopted our recommendation that state and LEA report cards must explicitly report expenditures that are not reflected in school-level reported figures. This change provides the public with greater insight into central and shared district spending.
We strongly believe that this rule will enable substantive action toward the equitable provision of educational services and will create a new level of transparency for state and LEA stakeholders as well as advocates. It will be up to states and districts to report this information in ways that provide sufficient context and provide transparency into the drivers of funding variation across schools.
Comprehensive & Targeted Support & Improvement (Sections 200.21 and 200.22)
We are pleased that the Department will require LEAs with schools designated for targeted or comprehensive improvement to include an analysis of access to advanced coursework as part of the overall resource review they conduct.
State Responsibility to Support Continued Improvement (Section 200.23)
Per our suggestion, the Department requires states to periodically review the resources in LEAs that contain a significant number or percentage of low-performing schools in the states. This means the state will examine the same range of resource inequities that LEAs must analyze when reviewing their low-performing schools. Additionally, the Department now requires states to compare resources in LEAs with significant shares of schools identified for support to resources in all other LEAs in the state.
The new ESSA resource reporting provisions represent new territory for districts and states. We plan to convene a cohort of school districts and states who are interested in leveraging ESSA to accelerate equity and district transformation. Let us know if your district or state education agency is interested in this opportunity.