Office of Diane M. Douglas

Superintendent of Public Instruction

February 16, 2016
Dear Education Leader:
On December 9, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)---the newest installment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)---into law. The statewide ESEA Waivers that lifted some of the binding legislation that came along with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will become null and void after August 1, 2016. The new ESSA provisions lessen federal regulation, giving states and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) more authority and opportunity for innovation over governing their own education systems and empowering them to determine when, under what basis, and how to address the challenges faced by struggling schools. This does, however, give us the burden to design our own rigorous programs and accountability measures in a short amount of time.
There are many changes that will take place with the new federal guidelines, and Congress is still going to be providing more guidance and clarification of legislation over the next 6 months. We do, however, have some important dates regarding the timeline of ESSA implementation. The legislation includes certain specific timelines to guide the transition period:

  • Waivers. The legislation specifies that statewide ESEA waivers are null and void on or after August 1, 2016.
  • Title I Accountability. The new accountability system shall take effect at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
  • Highly Qualified. The requirement for all Title I schools to have highly qualified teachers remains in effect until August 1, 2016. ADE's Certification Unit will provide guidance to schools on submitting this information to the Department.
  • Orderly Transition. The legislation provides the Secretary with the authority to implement the "orderly transition" to the new law. The legislation also specifies that if a program is no longer authorized under the new law, the Secretary's transition authority does not apply to those programs.  

Going forward, School Year (SY) 2016-2017 will be a transitional year between the ESEA Waiver provisions and ESSA. We will use this time to monitor low performing schools and submit our plans to the federal government.
ESSA will be fully in effect for SY 2017-2018.
To help answer questions you may have regarding state and federal requirements, we have created a page on the Arizona Department of Education website devoted to supporting and assisting you during this transition and in the years to come. As new guidelines are created, we will provide clear and timely guidance to the nuances of the new law, and create helpful forms and checklists to help you comply with the Statewide Accountability Plan we will be releasing in the coming months. The website can be found at:
We have also set up an inbox for you to email concerns or helpful comments regarding ESSA and the transition process. We can be reached at We will clarify information that is unclear, and will consider any suggestions you have for innovation.
Above all, our shared goal is to serve Arizona's children and provide them the quality education they deserve. We will work with you and for you to best address the needs of our students, and we have hope that the added flexibility accorded to us in the ESSA legislation will make this obligation easier to accomplish.
ADE Staff