January 11, 2016 Deborah Spitz U.S. Department of Education 400

January 11, 2016
Deborah Spitz
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave. SW, Room 3E306
Washington, DC 20202
Dear Ms. Spitz,
On behalf of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), a national nonprofit organization
representing state superintendents of education, thank you for the opportunity to comment on
what regulation and guidance the Department should issue to interpret the Every Student
Succeeds Act (ESSA). Generally, CCSSO urges the Department to provide clear and timely
interpretive guidance only when necessary to resolve uncertainties that arise in implementing a
complex and comprehensive new federal statute.
CCSSO strongly supported congressional approval of ESSA because the law provides a long-term,
stable federal policy that gives states additional flexibility and encourages states and schools to
innovate, while at the same time holding us accountable for results. In effect, it codifies a
bipartisan national movement to restore authority in education policy to states and local school
States have been leading the way in education policy for some time. As former Secretary Arne
Duncan has said: “Our best ideas have always come from state and local governments, which are
the real hothouses of innovation in America.” In recent years, states have raised academic
standards, improved assessments, refined state accountability systems, reformed teacher
preparation and evaluation systems, and moved forcefully to confront academic achievement
gaps. We are now prepared to embrace the new flexibility for states codified under ESSA and use
it to improve academic opportunity for all students.
Congress was quite clear in prescribing the Department’s authority to regulate under ESSA. The
conference committee report, which was approved by a bipartisan vote of 39-1, contains the
following instructions to the Department on academic accountability, for example:
While it is the intent of the Conferees to allow the Secretary to issue regulations
and guidance to clarify the intent and implement the law, Conferees intend to
prohibit such regulation that would create new requirements inconsistent with or
outside the scope of the law, including regulations that would take from a state the
authority to establish a Statewide Accountability system.
ESSA reflects a strong bipartisan congressional intent to restore substantial education authority
to states and local school districts. Unlike No Child Left Behind, which codified specific federal
accountability timelines and intervention strategies, ESSA empowers states to determine when,
under what basis, and how to address the challenges faced by struggling schools.
While the law substantially restricts the authority to create new federal requirements through
regulation, it also requires the Department to support states and districts in an orderly transition
to the new law and clarify areas of the statute that are unclear. The Department should move
quickly to provide states with the following:
Effective dates for full implementation of all programs and provisions of the law;
Deadlines for states’ submissions of consolidated state plans (or individual plans if the
state chooses not to consolidate);
Clarification on how to approach the intervening time between the lapse of waivers on
August 1, 2016 and the implementation of new statutory provisions, including new
accountability systems under Title I;
Information on which topics, both within and outside of Title I, that the Department
plans to address in non-regulatory guidance or regulation; and
Clarifications of statutory provisions that are unclear on their face and require specific
non-regulatory guidance for states to adequately interpret.
Implementation of a comprehensive new law is an extraordinarily complex endeavor at every
level – federal, state, and local. Passage of ESSA presents state and local leaders with many
questions about how to implement in a manner that is both responsive to state and local needs
and compliant with federal law. We welcome the Department’s partnership in implementing the
new law as Congress intended and providing interpretive guidance as state and local leaders
embrace new opportunities under the law to better serve students.
Peter Zamora
Director of Federal Relations
Council of Chief State School Officers
One Massachusetts Ave, NW • Suite 700 • W ashington, DC 20001
Tel: 202.336.7000 • Fax: 202.408.8072 • Web: www.ccsso.org