August 01, 2016

ABA urges clear direction for implementing ESSA

The ABA, pleased that the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes foster care support, offered recommendations this month on how the Department of Education regulations can ensure that state plans provide for the act’s effective implementation of transportation, data and reporting, and supportive services.

ESSA, signed by the president in December 2015, reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides federal grants to state educational agencies to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

ABA comments submitted Aug. 1 to the department emphasized how important it is for school stability that children in foster care receive transportation services. The association recommended that the ESSA regulations clarify that school stability is a joint responsibility of local educational and child welfare agencies, and that the agencies must collaborate continuously.

Language proposed by the ABA would clarify the obligation to provide transportation even if there is disagreement regarding funding of the transportation. The language also provides for resolution of disputes through collaboratively developed state plans and ensures that during any period of dispute resolution there is a clearly identified local agency responsible for providing transportation pending resolution of the dispute.

In the area of data and reporting, the ABA recommended that the definition of “foster care” for ESSA be aligned with the federal child welfare definition and the stability requirements of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.  The comments noted that some states define “child in foster care” more broadly than the federal definition, and those states should be permitted to apply the broader definition for the purposes of data reporting.

For the purposes of reporting student achievement, the ABA supports the designation of students in foster care as a subgroup because of the unique educational needs of those students and the educational barriers they face.  The comments point out that statistics for reporting high school graduation rates should include both students in foster care at the time of graduation and those who have ever experienced foster care while in high school for a more accurate understanding of the educational experience of students in foster care.

In addition, the comments stated that children and youth in foster care should be included in the subgroups of students listed under two proposed regulations regarding support for excellent educators and support for all students.        

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