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ESSA Monitoring Overview
Monitoring the use of funds and program implementation under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is an essential function of the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Unit of Federal Programs Administration (UFPA). ESEA has tremendous potential to improve the public education of historically underserved students through the following programs:
- Title I, Part A, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged
- Title I, Part D, Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who are Neglected, Delinquent
- Title II, Part A, Supporting Effective Instruction
- Title III, Part A, English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act
- Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants
- Title V, Part B, Rural Education Initiative
ESEA was reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, replacing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and allowing State Educational Agencies (SEAs) and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) more flexibility and discretion in designing and implementing programs that have been shown to improve student outcomes. ESSA requires that SEAs and LEAs monitor and evaluate these programs’ impact to ensure that all students, particularly those from historically underserved groups, have equitable access to a high quality education.
Monitoring of ESEA programs is conducted in order to ensure:
- All children have a fair, equitable, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education, with a focus on access and opportunity for historically underserved students;
- Compliance with ESEA requirements and open opportunities to increase ESEA program impacts on improving student outcomes; and
- Taxpayer dollars are administered and used in accordance with how Congress and the United States Department of Education (ED) intended.
A fundamental purpose of monitoring is to assess the extent to which LEAs lead and guide their schools in implementing policies and procedures that comply with Titles IA, ID, IIA, IIIA, IVA, and VB statutes and regulations.
The non-Federal entity must monitor its activities under Federal awards to assure compliance with applicable Federal requirements and performance expectations are being achieved. 2 CFR Part 200.328
Monitoring also formalizes the integral relationship between CDE and Colorado LEAs in implementing ESEA programs. It emphasizes, first and foremost, accountability for using resources to educate and prepare the nation’s students. A set of clear monitoring indicators clarifies for LEAs, and CDE monitoring personnel, the critical components of this accountability and provides a standard against which LEA policies and procedures can be measured. Monitoring enables CDE to gather accurate data about LEA and local needs, and use that data to design technical assistance initiatives and leadership activities. Thus, monitoring serves as a vehicle to help LEAs achieve high-quality implementation of educational programs and enable CDE to better advise and partner with LEAs in that effort.
CDE’s vision for monitoring is to help build school district and BOCES awareness of the requirements associated with accepting federal funds, capacity to self-assess against the requirements of the grants, and understanding of how they can best utilize grant funding to improve services for students. Monitoring is an opportunity to identify LEAs’ technical assistance and support needs and leverage Federal funds in support of better outcomes for all students.
With this in mind, CDE has designed the ESEA monitoring system to accomplish the following objectives:
- Focus on What Matters by ensuring LEAs are making progress toward increased student achievement and improved quality of instruction for all students through implementation of Federal programs;
- Reduce Burden on LEAs by combining and streamlining monitoring protocols for all ESEA programs and prioritizing LEAs selected to participate in the process based on a set of performance, fiscal, programmatic, and administrative selection criteria;
- Improve Communication with LEAs by strengthening their constructive partnerships with CDE through continuous feedback and assessment of the CDE monitoring resources, process, and system;
- Differentiate and Customize Support for LEAs by using the monitoring system to identify technical assistance to support LEA needs as well as areas in which LEAs are making progress and can serve as a model or resource for other LEAs; and
- Ensure Basic ESEA Requirements Are Met by reviewing program and fiscal requirements, to safeguard public funds from waste, fraud, and abuse.
The responsibility for monitoring resides with CDE, mandated by ESEA statute and Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards regulations, to assess program implementation. CDE conducts monitoring through multiple processes: tier I reviews, tier II reviews and tier III reviews.
CDE has worked with the ESSA Monitoring Stakeholders Workgroup, the ESSA Committee of Practitioners (CoP), and Regional Network Meeting attendees to synthesize ESSA program requirements into a meaningful and manageable collection of requirements. Based on work with these stakeholders, ESSA program requirements have been divided into four main categories:
- Fiscal requirements (reviews to be conducted collaboratively by CDE’s Federal Programs and Exceptional Student Services Units)
- Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement and Partnership
- Identification and Delivery of Services
- Evaluation of Program Impact (Coming Soon)
In addition to the ESSA program requirements and the indicators that will determine compliance with those requirements, CDE, in collaboration with stakeholders, created a tool for evaluating compliance, which includes examples of evidence that LEAs may use to demonstrate compliance with each requirement. The list of acceptable evidence is not exhaustive; LEAs may choose to demonstrate compliance based on other processes or documents that specifically pertain to them. Also worth noting, some evidence may be used to demonstrate compliance with more than one requirement. Indicators that have been prioritized based on stakeholder input, and examples of acceptable evidence, have been delineated in the ESSA Program Requirements Rubric.
Performance criteria determine the LEA’s level of review, which in turn guides monitoring activities. All reviews include universal activities and some include targeted and intensive monitoring activities. Monitoring begins with the consolidated application review process and provides an opportunity to support, collect, and evaluate information LEAs provide to show compliance with program requirements.
Monitoring Protocol Summary
CDE believes this differentiated monitoring structure will help both LEAs and CDE accomplish their goals. Reviews will enable CDE to better understand LEA goals and challenges, as well as areas of success that can serve as exemplars or resources for others. The cross-program review system will facilitate LEA discussions about how to better leverage resources to accomplish their goals and improve student achievement. CDE also expects to relieve LEA burden by identifying Federal requirements, regulations, and guidelines that currently obstruct efforts to support schools. CDE anticipates these new monitoring protocols will produce more efficient and productive conversations between LEAs and CDE and, in reducing unnecessary LEA burden, enable LEA staff to focus primarily on increasing student achievement and improving the quality of instruction for all students.
 Due to the overlap in federal fiscal requirements, ESSA, IDEA and Grants Fiscal will use the same indicators and evidence to determine compliance. In order to reduce burden on LEAs and align monitoring practices, these CDE units will be jointly collecting, reviewing, and assessing compliance on all fiscal requirements. LEAs will submit fiscal evidence only once to meet corresponding ESSA and IDEA requirements.