Secretary DeVos Unveils Parents' Guide to ESSA Flexibilities

Secretary DeVos Unveils Parents' Guide to ESSA Flexibilities

October 4, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today released a parent and guardian-friendly guide to the important flexibilities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The "Dear Parent" letter, written in plain language, was released at a roundtable with parents, students and educators in Mississippi as part of the Secretary's "Rethink School" tour. The guide is available here.

"At the core of ESSA is an acknowledgment that Washington doesn't know best when it comes to educating our nation's students," said Secretary DeVos. "Our focus is on returning power to the hands of parents, states and local educators, where it belongs. Parents should not have to parse through a 500-page legal document to understand how a law or policy affects their children's education."

DeVos continued, "Because states and districts have significant flexibility in how they meet the requirements of the law, parents should know and have a voice in how they use that flexibility to best help their children. These new resources will help empower those closest to students with information they need to be informed advocates as education decisions are made at the state and local level."

ESSA marked a seminal step taken by Congress to devolve power over education out of Washington and return it into the hands of states and local educators. The flexibilities included in ESSA are wide-ranging, including: allowing states the opportunity to implement innovative tests, not just a statewide test; broad discretion for states to design accountability systems to hold schools accountable for student achievement; a public school choice option for students in schools identified for comprehensive improvement; the ability to use federal funds to provide "direct student services" that it otherwise couldn't, such as enabling students to enroll in different courses; and the opportunity to combine funds to better support students.

The guide includes a 19-slide presentation that highlights the different ways states and districts can meet the letter of the law. Along with the guide, a summary document highlights the options that ESSA provides to states and school districts, and a more technical document explains how ESSA's flexibility can affect the way that states, districts and schools meet the law's requirements for academic standards, testing and more.

You can find these materials, along with all the other ESSA resources, here: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/essa/index.html.

Supportive Statements for the Parents' Guide to ESSA Flexibilities

Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky:

"We are grateful to Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education for issuing this Parent Guide regarding important flexibilities provided by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). State and local input is a vital component to ensuring student success, and this thoughtful effort will help empower parents, educators and communities to be engaged advocates in the education of each individual child."

Commissioner Michael Johnson of the Alaska Department of Education:

"The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has created greater flexibility by allowing states to create systems that are tailored to their unique needs. ESSA outlines a variety of ways to measure student achievement; states have the opportunity to create an accountability system that is more meaningful for a local context; and permitting the braiding and blending of federal, state and local funds to maximize impact. Building on this flexibility, additional creativity is needed by all stakeholders to make sure we are meeting the needs of all students."

Commissioner Wayne Lewis of the Kentucky Department of Education:

"A major welcoming shift in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the focus on meaningful parent and family engagement. Kentucky embraces finding new ways for parents to engage in their child's education and become part of the decision making process at their school and at the state level. Such engagement can be intimidating to parents. That is why the package of parent- and community-friendly documents the U.S. Department of Education has created are so important. They cut through the jargon that is often found in education to give parents and community members a quick understanding of what the law requires, and what steps they can take to help improve student achievement at their schools."

Superintendent Elsie Arntzen of the Montana Office of Public Instruction:

"Montana is working continuously on transparency on all of our communications to parents, education stakeholders and communities across our state. These documents are part of putting believability back into government serving students."

Commissioner Frank Edelblut of the New Hampshire Department of Education:

"Children thrive when families play an active role in their education. Informed parents are better equipped to fill that role. So, we appreciate this supportive resource from the U.S. Department of Education that helps our parents, educators and communities better understand the federal education laws affecting their children."

Secretary-Designate Chris Ruszkowski of the New Mexico Department of Public Education:

"New Mexico has harnessed the power of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) over the past three years by continuing to raise the bar for every student, and by providing the right balance of accountability and autonomy for every school statewide. This Parent Guide will help us stay the course and with continuous improvement, there is no limit to what we can achieve."

Superintendent Jillian Balow of the Wyoming Department of Education:

"In Wyoming, our students do better when everyone comes to the table and contributes - parents, teachers, administrators, legislators and of course our partners at the U.S. Department of Education. We believe that the more information there is to share, the better prepared our students will be to enter college, a career or the military. This new, easy to understand packet of information from the U.S. Department of Education is exactly what we've been waiting for to engage parents and students."