The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released yet another guidance document this week on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This new document covers schoolwide programs under Title I, updating and replacing guidance issued in June of 2015.
The updated schoolwide guidance bears a close resemblance to the earlier version, largely updating references and adding citations to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by ESSA. ED notes that schoolwide programs may be operated in Title I schools with 40% or more of their students living in poverty, or in Title I schools that receive a waiver from the State to operate a program regardless of student poverty. The guidance also points out that although School Improvement Grants (SIG) are no longer authorized under ESSA, Congress provided funding for the program in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, and therefore schools may continue to receive funds under SIG for several years to come.
In order to grant a waiver of the 40% threshold, the guidance says, a State “must take into account how a schoolwide program will best serve the needs of the students in the school in improving academic achievement, and other factors.” ED also encourages States to “establish a process, informed through feedback from the public, and criteria to ensure that schools receiving a waiver will operate a schoolwide program in a way that improves the achievement of students in the school who would otherwise be eligible to receive Title I services through a targeted assistance program.”
The guidance adds new detail to the required components of a schoolwide plan, discussing standards for engaging with stakeholders in the needs assessment and reviewing the items which must be included in a comprehensive schoolwide plan. ED’s list of examples of how to use funds in a schoolwide program includes advanced coursework like AP and IB or concurrent enrollment programs, as well as career and technical education, family and community engagement, and devices and software, including accessible devices for students with disabilities.
References to supplement, not supplant rules and using federal funds to supplement school reform have been removed in this document, most likely because regulations surrounding the amended supplement, not supplant provision in Title I are highly controversial and have yet to be finalized. ED says it will issue more information regarding this requirement “at a later date.”