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What to expect as the first ESSA state plan deadline approaches

By Jillian Luchner

Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in December 2015, a great deal has been done to get ready for implementation and a great deal is left to happen (including appropriations) before the law goes into full effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Eighteen states aim to submit state consolidated plans for the April 3 deadline. You can see those states and learn more about their plans, including the proposed student indicators, on our ESSA state map.

The transition to the new presidential administration has resulted in a few changes to the process, mainly in regards to ESSA regulations and to the state consolidated plan template.


On March 27, Trump signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) legislation rolling back regulations concerning accountability and teacher preparation under ESSA. Those regulations emphasized stakeholder engagement, provided an extended deadline for identification of school support, and set provisions for what types of research could be used in picking a student success and school quality indicator. Individuals supporting the regulations praised the guidelines as offering important clarity and adaptability functions. Others expressed concern that the Department of Education had overreached and been too prescriptive.

The CRA is not a frequently used tool, having only been used once prior to this year. It allows Congress to repeal regulations within 60 days with a simple majority and restricts any future regulations on the topic from being “substantially similar” to those that were repealed. If Congress forgoes another rule-making process, the Department of Education could still issue non-binding guidance on these issues.

Consolidated plans

To streamline the application process across the sections of the law, the Obama Administration issued a consolidated plan template late last year. Many states began using the template with their stakeholder groups to prepare for the ESSA deadlines. Soon after Secretary DeVos received her confirmation, the Department of Education issued a new consolidated plan template that takes into account the rolled-back regulations.

In order to accommodate states that had completed or nearly completed plans under the older template, the Department of Education issued a “crosswalk” to illustrate where elements of the Obama administration’s consolidated plan fit in the new template. DeVos also is allowing states to submit for the April 3 deadline by May 3, in order to give governors the legally mandated 30 days to review the plans before submission. The review criteria recently published for the new consolidated plans do not appear to include any details on 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Effects of changes

States are still free to make decisions for themselves on how much of the older regulations to integrate into their plans. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which represents state-level superintendents responsible for these plans, does not expect much change. Education Week captures this sentiment in an interview with CCSSO staff excerpted below:

Carissa Moffat Miller, the deputy executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said states have already done substantial outreach on their plans. She doesn't expect that to change. "They've done all that stakeholder consultation, and quite frankly, that's made these plans better," Miller said. […] A number of states are already well along in writing plans, using the Obama template as a guide. That work won't go to waste, Miller said. "Their plans are not wrong," she said. "What I think you will see is states going above and beyond the new template." 

Implications for afterschool

With some state plans being finalized, at least four plans include mention of student access to afterschool and/or extracurricular activities as an explicit indicator for reporting or accountability.

Fifteen states have proposed accountability indicator systems which track chronic absenteeism, and as afterschool programs have a strong evidence base in supporting student attendance and engagement, there is a clear opportunity for afterschool programs to drive in-school student attendance and academic success. Additionally, 18 states have proposed an indicator around college and career readiness, another field where afterschool partners can play a role in preparing students for challenging coursework, SAT/ACT, career opportunities, and more.

Many states are still in the state-level planning process. Residents in these states can advocate for a clear, coordinated connection between the school day and afterschool and for planning processes that reach out to a broad group of stakeholders and protect vulnerable populations. Interested advocates should visit our ESSA Toolkit pages for tools to engage at the state and the district level. Make sure to visit your state’s ESSA page and talk with your state afterschool network to learn more about where your state is in the process and how you can contribute.