Three Things Charter School Leaders Should Know About ESSA

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The enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), the first rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in nearly 14 years, was a major accomplishment for Congress and the Obama Administration. ESSA gives states a much more prominent role, so now comes the hard part to a state capitol near you –implementation!

To date, the U.S. Department of Education and stakeholders – including the charter school community - have been engaged in rulemaking, comprising of public hearings and three rounds of negotiated rulemaking on assessments and “supplement not supplant.” The charter school community was well represented on the designated negotiated rulemaking panel by Richard Pohlman, Executive Director of Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington D.C. Richard and the National Alliance staff protected charter school autonomy by successfully negotiating on two charter- specific issues:

  1. Local educational agencies (LEAs) must consult with their charter schools if they choose to use an nationally recognized high school assessment, such as the SAT or ACT, in lieu of the state high school assessment, and
  2. Single school charter LEAs are exempt from federal fiscal “supplanting” requirements. This will ensure that states and auditors do not mistakenly require charter school LEAs to demonstrate compliance with a rule that is more appropriate for school districts. 

What's next?

This summer, the U.S. Department of Education will publish rules on assessments (on which stakeholders reached consensus in the negotiated rulemaking process), “supplement not supplant” (where there was not consensus), and accountability. The latter two topics will likely be subject to extensive debate; the National Alliance will continue to engage on both of these issues.

What should charter school leaders focus on right now?

    1. ESSA eliminates Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) requirements and does not replace HQT with anything else - it does not impose any new requirements. As a result, the only requirements that should effect charter school teachers are those that may exist in state law or policy. ESSA does not require states to have any requirements in place for charter school teachers. States cannot use the federal law to impose licensure or certification requirements on charter school teachers; a state would have to amend its own law. Charter leaders should ensure that their state doesn’t hold onto these requirements with a mistaken understanding that there is a transition year, or that something needs to be done to replace them first.
    2. ESSA requires consultation with charter school leaders when states and LEAs develop their plans for federal funding. It is not too early to engage with SEAs to inquire about their process for addressing the new law. See federal, state, and local consultation requirements here
    3. Data systems can take time to transition; it’s important to stay in touch with LEA and/or State data officers to ensure schools are prepared for any state report card measures that may be changed. 
To support charter school leaders with ESSA implementation see these key questions advocates should consider as activities shift to the states.

The National Alliance is fully engaged the implementation of ESSA, but needs to hear from leaders at the state level if there are opportunities or issues. Please do not hesitate to contact the federal team with any questions or concerns.

For the latest details on ESSA implementation visit the National Alliance website.