The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law by President Obama in December 2015, is “the largest devolution of federal control [over education] to the states in a quarter-century,” according to the Wall Street Journal. How can governors and state education leaders make ESSA work for students? This Issue Brief offers five recommendations:
- Create parent-centered, excellence-focused, accountability systems. “Accountability” should not just be about using test scores to inform the decisions of state bureaucrats; it should also be about informing parents of broader measures of school quality, such as the availability of advanced course work, extracurriculars, and the arts.
- Don’t allow accountability plans to include the number of school suspensions. If schools are punished or rewarded based on the number of suspensions issued, schools will have a strong incentive to reduce suspensions regardless of whether the reduction is warranted by student behavior. An indiscriminate reduction in suspensions will make schools less safe and orderly.
- Give students the opportunity to take a wider range of subjects. Use federal dollars to expand online course programs to unlock the potential of students who are underserved by their school’s academic offerings.
- Leverage teacher-preparation academies. Authorize “teacher-preparation academies” to bring talented professionals into the classroom as teachers. This would improve the availability and quality of career and technical education.
- Combine weighted student funding with public school choice. ESSA enables enterprising districts to shift to a funding formula where money directly follows students—“weighted student funding,” rather than line items; it also enables states to require districts to give students a choice of school. Combining both measures would give traditional districts the freedom and flexibility of all-charter districts.