Education experts consider accountability under ESSA
- State education officials have varying degrees of concern on how the Every Student Succeeds Act will be implemented, according to an NPR article on a recent meeting of the Education Commission of the States.
- Attendees were concerned that the touted return to state control could lead to states abandoning efforts to place effective teachers in each classroom, and they were also worried that states were not adequately prepared to meet ESSA requirements on English language learners.
- Advocates for civil rights are concerned that less federal oversight will give states the cover to make minimal efforts to improve disparities in equity in the classroom and in funding, and those concerns come as schools and districts across the country also face budget crises.
States are in the midst of sending their accountability plans to the U.S. Department of Education for approval ahead of ESSA’s implementation. Many education officials have been surprised that the department under Secretary Betsy DeVos has been tougher on enforcing ESSA guidelines in the plans than many expected from someone who had previously decried the onerous amount of federal oversight in education. For example, federal officials criticized Delaware’s accountability plan to halve the number of students who weren't meeting proficiency in the next 10 years, which the department thought wasn't ambitious enough.
States will continue to submit plans, with all state accountability plans due to the Education Department in September, but schools and districts are finding ways to place less focus on proficiency and achievement a reality for their students. And superintendents and administrators who want more formative assessment in their classrooms can find ways to do it, even with ESSA’s rollout.
The Cornith School District in Mississippi, for example, revamped its curriculum and assessment methods after being consider a “district of innovation” for several years, while some Minnesota educators managed to open a new school focused on personalized learning and collaboration between teachers within the district as a public school, with assistance from the superintendent. District leaders should not feel hesitant about this level of experimentation in the age of ESSA, though this reticence may be a holdover from the move toward more federal oversight in the No Child Left Behind Act.