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Best Interest Determination

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a student should only change schools if remaining in the school of origin is not in the student’s best interest.

Requirements under ESSA:

  • If a change in schools is being considered, the local education agency (LEA) and child welfare agency (CWA) must collaborate to conduct a Best Interest Determination (BID).
  • All factors relating to the child’s best interest must be considered, including the appropriateness of the current educational setting and the proximity to the student’s residence.

Best Practice

Federal guidance recommends that LEAs and CWAs work collaboratively to develop a clear policy or protocol on how to make best interest determinations. The policy or protocol should:

  • Include making every effort to gather meaningful input from relevant parties.
  • Establish a well-informed determination process that takes into consideration student-centered factors including: the preferences of the student; the number of previous transitions; proximity of the school to the student’s current residence; specialized services that are available to the student at either school; or any special relationships with staff that the student has formed at their current school.

Cost of transportation should not be considered when determining what is in the student’s best interest.

Guidance and Templates

The Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Children and Families issued the Best Interest Determination: Joint Guidance and Worksheets including guidance and worksheet templates that can be used during a best interest determination.

Guidance from the American Bar Association’s Legal Center for Foster Care and Education outlines specific considerations for establishing a Best Interest Determination process.


20 U.S.C. 6311(g)(1)(E)
Non Regulatory Guidance: Ensuring Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care, U.S.D.E. and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jun. 23, 2016.