As we’ve reported in the past, the states are expecting to assume more autonomy over their practices, particularly in how they evaluate teacher and student performance, following last year’s federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The law, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress, is a response to widespread criticism that the nation’s previous education law, No Child Left Behind, included rigorous testing requirements that unfairly punished some low-performing schools continually labeled as failing.
Now comes a fascinating piece in Education Week, which reports that federal lawmakers are warning states to tread carefully in their updates, particularly as it relates to education for children with special needs and other marginalized groups.
From Education Week:
Lawmakers on the House education committee had a not-so-subtle message (last week) for states and the U.S. Department of Education as they move to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act: We’ll be watching you.
Republicans on the panel that held the hearing seemed to be trying to cut potential federal overreach off at the pass, making it crystal clear from the get-go that, in their view, the law is aimed at returning key authority over K-12 schools to states and districts.
ESSA “includes more than 50 provisions to keep the Department of Education in check” when it comes to accountability, standards, assessments, and more, said Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees K-12 policy in his opening statement. “Congress promised to restore state and local control over K-12 education, and now it’s our job to ensure that promise is kept.”
Meanwhile, Democrats made it equally clear they’ll be keeping their eye on the department and states to make sure that they don’t use this newfound flexibility to trample on protections for historically overlooked groups of students, such as English-language learners and those in special education.
“The U.S. Department of Education will need to ensure that states are putting children first,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, the top Democrat on the subcommittee.