Special Report
Every Student Succeeds Act

ESSA’s Growing Pains Evident Amid Progress

By Mark Bomster — April 02, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If the Every Student Succeeds Act were a schoolchild, it would be a preschooler—not much more than 3 years old, making steady progress, but still stumbling a bit along the way.

The first major rewrite of the nation’s main K-12 law in more than a decade, ESSA was signed into law at the end of 2015, replacing and updating the groundbreaking—but problematic—No Child Left Behind Act.

In theory, the last couple of school years should have been enough time for states and districts to begin making good on ESSA’s promises. Chief among them: a loosening of the federal reins in favor of greater local and state leeway over setting K-12 policy and satisfying the law’s demands for strict accountability, school improvement, and public transparency.

In reality, it’s not so simple. The practical and political challenges of ESSA’s shifts are playing out in stages as the law is phased in and as local and state education leaders start to face tough choices about federal compliance, poorly performing schools, vulnerable students, and more.

This latest Education Week special report recaps what’s been achieved by states and districts in meeting key milestones under the law, how it’s beginning to transform the relationship between federal oversight and state autonomy, and just how innovative and willing states have been in adopting ESSA’s new flexibilities.

It looks at the challenge states face in finding research-based solutions to improving schools that are failing overall or falling short when it comes to such students as racial minorities, English-learners, and those with disabilities, along with state-specific examples aimed at solving that puzzle.

The report examines one state’s experience as part of an ESSA-driven pilot program that aims to help states try out student assessments that go beyond the standardized tests that educators have long seen as limited and constraining, with the hope of eventually scaling up district-level tryouts statewide.

And it takes a deep dive into the promises and pitfalls of ESSA’s sweeping new data-disclosure requirements, which are intended to put powerful new tools in the hands of parents, the public, and advocates in areas including academic achievement and school-by-school spending.

The report also offers a sampling from Education Week‘s online “Answering Your ESSA Questions” series, in which federal policy reporters on the Politics K-12 blog hear from educators, advocates, and the public about what they need to know in grappling with the intricacies of the law’s implementation.

ESSA’s rollout remains a work in progress. To keep up with its twists and turns, be sure to sign up for our online summit “Living With ESSA’s Changes,” taking place May 14 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time on edweek.org. The summit will feature Education Week reporters and guests who will unpack how states and districts are using ESSA to transform and customize their education systems.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2019 edition of Education Week as ESSA’s Growing Pains Evident Amid Progress


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Every Student Succeeds Act Republicans Tell Miguel Cardona His Plan for ESSA Waivers Seems to Violate the Law
The Every Student Succeeds Act doesn't permit the education secretary to seek certain data he's asking for, the two GOP lawmakers say.
4 min read
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, left, listens as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, center, speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Every Student Succeeds Act How Will ESSA Hold Up During COVID-19? Pandemic Tests the Law's Resilience
Lawmakers designed ESSA to limit mandates covering issues like how tests are used. Will that affect how well the law survives the pandemic?
6 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Betsy DeVos Tells States Not to Expect Waivers From Annual Tests
The tests required by federal law are crucial to helping schools respond to the coronavirus pandemic and help vulnerable students, the education secretary said in a letter to chief state school officers.
3 min read
Every Student Succeeds Act Top DeVos Deputy: Our 'Instinct' Is to Not Give States Testing Waivers Next Year
"Accountability aside, we need to know where students are so we can address their needs," Assistant Secretary of Education Jim Blew said during remarks at the Education Writers Association's National Seminar.
3 min read