ESSA Charts Path to Local Control, Not A Course to Inferior Academic Standards

While the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was designed to give control over education policy back to states and local officials, Chalkbeat’s implication that it could lead to states jettisoning Common Core standards in favor of something stronger is off-base. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, which subjected states to strict oversight and regulations that left many local leaders concerned about federal overreach. ESSA gives the reins back to the states.

Karen Nussle, former executive director of the Collaborate for Student Success, wrote that ESSA “forever ends what has long been an Achilles’ Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.”

But that does not mean ESSA implementation will suddenly set loose a stampede of states away from the Common Core, which have proven to be the kind of high-quality academic standards that will put students on a path to success in high school and beyond. Indeed, states that have attempted to write their own standards have found their efforts to be sorely lacking. Oklahoma’s “go it alone” experiment resulted in subpar standards that an independent analyst claimed would “disadvantage Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states; students in Oklahoma will be less prepared to successfully enter college and careers.”

Common Core opponents push Michigan and a handful of others to go down the same road as Oklahoma but experts warn against similarly harming students. More often than not, repeal efforts have fizzled out or wound up rebranding the Common Core. The fact is, states have found it to be an impossible task to develop high-quality, rigorous academic benchmarks that bear no resemblance to the Common Core. Colorado’s lawmakers and policy officials should bear that in mind as they chart out a course for what ESSA means for their students.