Delivered via email: March 20, 2020
BREAKING NEWS: FEDERAL ASSESSMENT RELIEFIn his press conference today, President Trump announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing required in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the 2019-2020 school year. Upon a proper request, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students because of the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year. Therefore, any state unable to assess its students may seek a waiver from federal testing requirements by completing a form.
U. S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also stated in the official announcement that since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in the statewide accountability system because of the ongoing national emergency.
USDE INFORMATION PROVIDED TODAY ON CONFERENCE CALLThe USDE hosted a conference call today to provide guidance on many issues facing school districts right now. Representatives from various offices talked about issues including special education, school food service, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and civil rights issues.
The special education representatives said if a district is providing educational opportunities to general education students then they are also required to provide equal access to the same educational opportunities to special education students. Representatives also said districts are able to spend IDEA Part B funds during this time for certain approved activities, including for assistive technologies for e-learning opportunities for special education students. Funds may also be used to educate parents, but the education must specifically be geared towards information for special education students only. Districts should verify any specific spending ideas with their attorneys or the USDE before implementing.
The FERPA representatives reminded stakeholders that FERPA requirements must still be followed at this time, however, the USDE is looking at some flexibilities and guidance to help districts navigate this difficult time.
The representatives stressed that additional guidance and flexibilities will continue to come out and will be posted on the USDE COVID-19 website. Additionally, any questions about what spending qualifies under certain line items, correct procedures, or needed flexibilities should be submitted to email@example.com.
The following additional documents have been posted on the USDE COVID-19 website:
- Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak
- Student Privacy FAQ titled “FERPA & Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)”
COVID-19 FLEXIBILITY - NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH AND BREAKFAST PROGRAMThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved waivers for all 50 states to allow schools to continue to provide food to children during school closures. On the USDE phone call today, a representative from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service mentioned COVID-19 flexibilities for this program are listed here and here. Guidance will continue to be added, and additional flexibilities are being considered. Also, if your district is interested in serving meals to your students and needs help developing a system, information is available.
On March 12, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released guidance on schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program. From ISBE: “The Illinois State Board of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to waive the congregate feeding requirement, which will provide flexibility to school food authorities and community organizations to distribute meals in affected communities. School food authorities are encouraged to apply in advance of a COVID-19 school dismissal. To apply, schools complete a simple form, the Unanticipated School Closure Non-Congregate Meal Form, and submit to ISBE at firstname.lastname@example.org. This form allows the school food authorities to detail their locally developed plans to ensure program meal content, counts, and food safety are in compliance.” More information is available on the ISBE website.
USDE DRAFT TITLE I GUIDANCEThe USDE has released its draft of Title I within-district guidance for stakeholder review and public comment through April 10, 2020.
According to the Department, the draft combines existing information on within-district Title I, Part A allocations (that currently exists in multiple places) to make the information easier for States, local education agencies (LEA)s, and other stakeholders to access and use. It also updates the information to be consistent with the requirements in ESSA, identifying the requirements and flexibilities that ESSA provides.
Areas that are covered in this draft include Equitable Services for Eligible Private School Children, Parent and Family Engagement, Homeless Children and Youth and Children in Local Institutions for Neglected Children, and examples of how school districts may reserve funds for the aforementioned purposes. This document also covers the methodology used to determine Title I allocations, and includes an appendix with details about the use of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
The Department has asked that stakeholders "refrain from providing line-edits [to] the document. Instead, please submit substantive comments about the content of the draft, including any additional topics you would like to see included, to OESE.Feedback@ed.gov."
E-RATELast week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) extended the 2020 E-Rate application filing window due to COVID-19 disruptions. Applicants now have until 11:59 p.m. on April 29 to submit their Form 471 applications. The order also directs the Universal Service Administrative Company to provide all applicants with an automatic 14-day extension for Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) requests. The FCC’s public notice is available here.
Separately, IASB joined the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and other national education stakeholder groups in sending a letter to the FCC urging the agency to use its emergency powers to enable school districts to use E-Rate as a tool for connecting students to broadband during prolonged school closures. If you are interested in signing on to the letter, click here.