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Ed. Dept. Kicks Off Process for Writing Every Student Succeeds Act Rules

Attention, teachers, principals, state chiefs, civil rights advocates, district superintendents, board members, and others who care about federal K-12 policy: The U.S. Department of Education wants your help in crafting regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Specifically, the Education Department wants nominations for a "negotiated rulemaking" committee, according to a notice slated to be published in the Federal Register Thursday. (More on just what "negotiated rulemaking" means below).

Under ESSA, the department must use this process for three different areas of the law: standards, assessments, and "supplement-not-supplant" (a financial portion that deals with how federal dollars can be used relative to local spending).

The department will appoint at least one representative from each of these groups to the "negotiated rulemaking" committee: state administrators and state boards of education; local administrators and local boards of education; tribal leadership; parents and students (including historically disadvantaged kids); teachers; principals and other school leaders (including charter leaders); paraprofessionals;  the civil rights community (including representatives of students with disabilities, English-language learners and others); the business community; and federal administrators.

And the committee could consider regulations for assessments including:

  • Just how it would work to have local districts substitute a nationally recognized test to be used for high school accountability instead of the state exam—for instance, which tests are "nationally recognized."
  • How 8th grade math tests should work for advanced students
  • Assessments for students with disabilities and English-language learners
  • Computer adaptive tests

And it will consider how supplement-not-supplant—which has been revised under the new law, to allow for more flexibility for districts—will work, including the timeline for compliance.

The department is looking for nominations for committee members. If you're interested in submitting a name, you'll have about three weeks to let the department know.

The committee will meet at least twice, March 21 to 23, and April 6 to 8. There's an optional third meeting from April 18 to 19. All those meetings are open to the public. So save the date.

So what's negotiated rule making? It's federal bureaucrat speak for putting a bunch of interested parties (or "stakeholders" in  bureaucratic jargon) in a room together to hash out an agreement on how key parts of the law should be implemented and regulated. If the process fails, which it often does, the administration just proceeds with the normal regulatory process.

ESSA puts a twist on this process—if "negotiated rulemaking" fails, Congress will have a couple weeks to review the regulations on standards, assessments, and supplement-not-supplant before they take effect.

Will getting to agreement be a slam dunk? Probably not. Advocates have really different ideas about how the department should regulate on ESSA. State chiefs and governors, for instance, want a light touch that leaves room for local flexibility,  while the civil rights community wants the department to use its authority to make sure historically disadvantaged kids are protected. 

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