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Manhattan Institute

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The Every Student Succeeds Act: How to Make It Work

issue brief

The Every Student Succeeds Act: How to Make It Work

April 20, 2017
EducationPre K-12
Urban PolicyEducation

Abstract

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here. 

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