Accessing ED's Guidance Documents
This page provides links to each of our Principal Operating Component's (POC's) inventory of guidance. For each POC, we provide below an overview of the laws the POC implements and the topics its guidance covers. We also describe how the POC has organized its guidance at the link provided to make it easier to search for a particular guidance document or guidance relating to a particular program or topic. You may also search for a specific topic or a particular guidance document using the search box at the top right of this page. Guidance documents lack the force and effect of law. On February 26, 2020, the Department published a Federal Register notice announcing the existence and location of this guidance portal at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-02-26/pdf/2020-03811.pdf. Members of the public may request the withdrawal or modification of an existing guidance document or significant guidance document by submitting this request through regulations.gov within docket number ED-2022-OGC-0060. Also, please see a memorandum from the General Counsel regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) procedures [MS Word, 65KB].
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
OSERS administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
The IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.
IDEA guidance documents may be accessed through the IDEA Policy Letters and Policy Support Documents page. Through this site, you can view all documents, filter documents based on the year they were issued, or search for topic areas using key words.
IDEA Policy Letters and Policy Support Documents page: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/policy-letters-policy-support-documents/
WIOA is designed to strengthen and improve the nation's public workforce development system by helping Americans with barriers to employment, including individuals with disabilities, who are served through programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, achieve high-quality careers and by helping employers hire and retain skilled workers.
WIOA guidance may be accessed through the RSA Sub-Regulatory Guidance page: https://rsa.ed.gov/statute-legislation-and-policy/sub-regulatory-guidance
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)
OCTAE administers programs and initiatives related to career and technical education, adult education and literacy, correctional education, and community colleges. The primary laws that OCTAE administers are the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides funding for career and technical education programs at the high school and postsecondary levels, and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), which provides funding for adult education and literacy programs for individuals ages 16 and older who lack basic skills, a high school credential or its equivalent, or proficiency in English. The guidance that OCTAE has issued is organized by the laws to which the guidance pertains. There is one section for career and technical education and another for adult education and literacy. You can find OCTAE's guidance at the following link:
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
The principal law that OESE administers is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended. OESE also houses three programs that are authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965, one program authorized under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one program authorized under the Educational Technical Assistance Act of 2002, and three programs authorized under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. In addition, OESE administers the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act and some programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. OESE’s guidance includes information gathered through oversight of implementation of the ESSA by state educational agencies, stakeholder-identified needs for clarification of the ESSA’s provisions, and needs identified due to new statutory or regulatory provisions or court cases.
You can access OESE’s guidance documents at the following link:
Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE)
OPE is responsible for the implementation of programs authorized under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA). OPE formulates Federal postsecondary education policy including policy relating to the Federal student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the HEA. The Information for Financial Aid Professionals (IFAP) website consolidates guidance, resources, and information related to the administration and processing of Title IV Federal student aid into one online site.
The most recent postings to the site are listed in the What's New section. Additionally, the majority of OPE's guidance is issued in the form of Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) or electronic announcements (EAs). These guidance documents can be found at the "Letters and Announcements" section of the website indicated below and these guidance documents are organized by date and also by topic.
You can access the guidance within the IFAP website at the following link:
Additionally, you can access OPE’s guidance related to topics other than the administration and processing of Title IV Federal student aid at the following link:
You can view guidance, as well as other resources, related to foreign gifts and contract reporting under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 at the following link:
Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
OCR enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. These civil rights laws enforced by OCR extend to all State educational agencies, elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, State vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums that receive U.S. Department of Education funds. Areas covered may include, but are not limited to: admissions, recruitment, financial aid, academic programs, student treatment and services, counseling and guidance, discipline, classroom assignment, grading, vocational education, recreation, physical education, athletics, housing, and employment. OCR also has responsibilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (prohibiting disability discrimination by public entities, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance). In addition, as of January 8, 2002, OCR enforces the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act (Section 9525 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended). Under the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, no public elementary school or State or local educational agency that provides an opportunity for one or more outside youth or community groups to meet on school premises or in school facilities before or after school hours shall deny equal access or a fair opportunity to meet to, or discriminate against, any group officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, or any other youth group listed in Title 36 of the United States Code as a patriotic society.
Policies appearing at the link below can be organized by the statutes enforced by OCR: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Race and National Origin Discrimination), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Sex Discrimination), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Disability Discrimination), the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Age Discrimination), and the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, ( Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act Discrimination). Two other topics include the prohibition against retaliation under Federal civil rights laws (Retaliation), and the Methods of Administration program, which ensures equal access to high-quality career and technical education programs (Methods of Administration). All of OCR’s policies, across statutes, may be accessed at the following link:
Please see PDF below for recent OCR rescissions.
Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development (OPEPD)
The Office of Educational Technology (OET) develops educational technology policy and establishes strategies for encouraging the development and use of educational technology that transforms teaching and learning and that empowers students and families. Resources and guidance developed by OET are available at the following link:
Office of Finance and Operations (OFO)
The OFO serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary and Senior Officials on all matters related to financial management, financial management systems, financial control and accounting, cooperative agreements, acquisition management, budget processes and proposals, grants administration policy, guidance, and related training, human resources, security, and facilities and logistics services.
Guidance issued by offices in OFO can be found here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ofo/programs.html
Types of Guidance Documents
This page provides information about guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and its offices. Guidance documents represent the ED’s current thinking on a topic. They do not create or confer any rights for or on any person and do not impose any requirements beyond those required under applicable law and regulations. Guidance documents lack the force and effect of law.
There are three definitions for categories of guidance documents as described in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices (GGP Bulletin) published on January 18, 2007. These are as follows:
Guidance document- an agency statement of general applicability and future effect, other than a regulatory action (as defined in Executive Order 12866, as further amended, § 3(g)), that sets forth a policy on a statutory, regulatory or technical issue or an interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue. (Section I(3), GGP Bulletin.)
Significant guidance document- as defined in the Section I(4)(a) of the GGP Bulletin, a guidance document disseminated to regulated entities or the general public that may reasonably be anticipated to:
Lead to an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities;
Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency;Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or
Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in Executive Order 12866, as further amended.
Section I(4)(b) of the GGP Bulletin further explains what the definition of "significant guidance documents" excludes.
Economically significant guidance document- a significant guidance document that may reasonably be anticipated to lead to an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy or a sector of the economy, except that economically significant guidance documents do not include guidance documents on Federal expenditures and receipts. (Section I(5), GGP Bulletin.)