The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed in 2015 to give power back to the states and local leaders to make necessary changes in their school’s systems to increase students’ test scores and create standards to hold teachers accountable. This reformed and replaced former President George W. Bush’s 2002 No Child Left Behind program.
Each state is required to turn in an ESSA proposal by September 18th. So far, only 16 states and the District of Columbia have met the deadline.
In an effort to rebuke No Child Left Behind, educators argued that a “one size fits all” approach isn’t able to address state and school districts’ different and unique challenges. In turn, ESSA put more responsibility to balance its funding. The states have to write a proposal budgeting their Title I funds so that all schools are taken care of, while also allocating additional funds for low performing schools.
But now, after two years of the ESSA becoming law, experts are skeptical. While some are seeing many positive results from states, some school systems where reform is badly needed seem to be going through the motions and not addressing many of the issues that need attention. On the other hand, leaders could be struggling to find an efficient approach.
The Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonpartisan nonprofit, reviewed all 17 proposals and found states did not clearly define how they should be held accountable for the performance of students. The report found that, with the exception of New Mexico and Tennessee, states haven’t outlined how they plan to use federal funds to address ‘chronically low-performance schools.’ The study also found that the proposals weren’t clear on how schools who have already been identified as needing improvement will be evaluated. The report had hoped to see clearer guidelines on the state’s plans and how the schools should be held accountable for low test scores. The independent review found that overall, the states gave very few outlines to these crucial steps.
The report identified positives of the state’s proposals as well. More states are including ‘college and career readiness’ as a measurement to see whether students are taking the necessary steps to succeed beyond K-12 education. All 17 plans included long term measuring by starting to track student growth over years, rather than a static determination year-to-year.
The Department of Education will have 120 days to review the submitted proposals by each state. Last week, Education Sec. Betsy DeVos gave her first review and applauded the state of Delaware, who was the first to file their ESSA plan back in April.
“Delaware has always been a state of firsts, so it should be no surprise that theirs was both the first state plan submitted and the first approved under ESSA,” Secretary DeVos said.
The Department of Education is still waiting on 34 states proposals.