September 20, 2016
In the current issue of The Hunt Institute’s re:VISION, The Every Student Succeeds Act: Opportunities and Responsibilities, I outline key provisions within the law and call attention to examples of high-level considerations for policymakers.
As the title suggests, the overarching theme is that policymakers should seize this opportunity to build better and more equitable education systems. Headlines tout that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a significant departure from the federal mandates associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Without doubt, ESSA does afford greater regulatory flexibility to states, in a manner similar to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waivers (and this time with fewer strings attached). It is therefore understandable why this shift should generate so much interest. However, it is also important to recognize that ESSA retains many of the same basic requirements associated with the older reauthorization – including the continued emphasis on test-based accountability. What is more, it is imperative that the heightened autonomy and flexibility of ESSA does not obscure or hamper the vital responsibility to maintain a focus on improving outcomes for all students and closing achievement gaps.
During the course of its 51-year legislative history, programs associated with ESEA Title I have played an important role in the drive for educational equity and quality. NCLB, in particular, sought to ensure accountability for all subgroups of students and raised awareness about opportunity and achievement gaps in American schools. Under ESSA, state policymakers are now positioned to tailor education policy better to meet their state’s needs and move us closer to a future in which every child can receive a fair, equitable and high-quality education. My hope for this brief is that it can be used by policymakers to start a series of conversations about what can be done to improve our nation’s education systems.