AASA's Statement on Every Student Succeeds Act Hearing

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In response to Tuesday's Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on ESSA implementation, AASA released the following statement in the press release below.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
James Minichello
703-875-0723
703-774-6953 (cell)
jminichello@aasa.org


Alexandria, Va. – April 12, 2016 – AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech released the following statement in advance of the April 12, 2016 Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, ESSA Implementation in States and School Districts: Perspectives from the U.S. Secretary of Education.
 
“AASA, The School Superintendents Association, is proud of its endorsement of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and remains committed to working with both Congress and the U.S. Department of Education as we move forward to support successful ESSA implementation. Our organization represents the nation’s more than 13,000 school system leaders and we are watching closely to ensure that the regulations and guidance that will further shape the law remain aligned and consistent with the underlying statute.
 
“Congress acted very deliberately in its broad, bipartisan work to make changes in certain areas while leaving others untouched. With a bill so clearly focused on positioning state and local educational agencies as the drivers of policy decisions, while ensuring the role of the federal government to support and strengthen the nation’s schools, it is critical that the U.S Education Department (USED) refrain from defining terms and aspects of the new law that Congress gave communities the flexibility to determine.
 
“To the extent that ESSA establishes definitions and requirements, there are policy decisions crafted with significant input from broad, diverse constituencies, including educators, the civil rights community and the disability community. To the extent that ESSA refrains from a national definition or requirement should remain a state and local decision, unless there is consensus that federal clarification is needed. ESSA anticipated and addressed this very tension, and ‘prohibit[s] any such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or outside the scope of the law.’ New federal definitions through regulation would represent new requirements and would be outside the scope and intent of the law.
 
“In particular, we are deeply concerned that the proposed regulations represent a serious overreach in the areas of ‘supplement, not supplant’ and alternate assessment.

  • Supplement Not Supplant: Supplement, not supplant is one of three federal provisions aimed at preserving the integrity of Title I funding. Maintenance of Effort evaluates the dollar amount; supplement not supplant addresses the construct/methodology of allocation; and comparability addresses equitable allocation. They are distinct statutory provisions, and ESSA changed only one: Congress was as deliberate in its move to modify supplement not supplant as it was to leave both maintenance of effort and comparability unchanged. We are concerned that the proposed regulations reflect a ‘mission creep’ focused on getting changes that Congress denied in statute through regulation. Further, the proposal will unnecessarily burden schools, impact day-to-day operations, result in forced transfers of teachers, and disrupt various methods of school budgeting, including weighted student formulae.
  • Alternate Assessments: The alternate assessment language in ESSA represents a very carefully negotiated compromise between the various groups represented in the negotiated rulemaking committee. We are concerned that the proposed regulations change ESSA statute before it has even been implemented. Echoing a sentiment listed above, we are also concerned with an effort to establish a national definition for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities. The previous law, No Child Left Behind, represented a much more prescriptive role for the federal government in education and did not define the term. To see a definition in the proposed regulation runs counter to the intent of the underlying ESSA statute, which is clear in its focus on state and local decision making and was deliberate in not defining the term. It is a term that has, to date, been defined at the state and local level, and this is an approach that is appropriately deferential to the role of the individualized education program team in crafting these decisions.  The 1 percent cap on alternate assessments remains in place and is a guiding mark. Under ESSA, it remains a litmus test that strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring that students are not disproportionately identified for alternate assessments; preserving the role of the IEP team and the significance of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in driving alternate assessment decisions;  and providing limited flexibility to those schools who may find they have an atypically high rate of students who need to take an alternate assessment. We remain optimistic that USED can and will revise its regulations to more closely reflect statutory intent.”

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For specific questions about ESSA implementation, please contact Noelle Ellerson, AASA associate executive director, policy and advocacy, at nellerson@aasa.org.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.


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