ESSA Ensures States Will Set Their Own Standards, Not Some Federal Authority

In a new Breitbart column, Dr. Susan Berry suggests that even under the new ESSA “template” released by the Department of Education this week, states will be coerced into implementing Common Core State Standards.  According to Berry, “the department says two private groups that own the copyright of the Common Core State Standards may assist states with an ‘alternative template.’”

ESSA was specifically designed to give control over education policy back to state and local officials.  Enacted in December 2015 with bipartisan support, ESSA permanently replaces No Child Left Behind. Each state is now taking the lead on producing its own plan.

As Berry points out, the Department of Education released a fact sheet with their new template which “refers states to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) for assistance ‘to support the plan submission process.’”

According to Berry, this “assistance” or “support” translates into CCSSO and NGA mandating that states will have to use Common Core State Standards as part of their ESSA plans. That is quite a leap.

The same fact sheet specifically outlines the fact (see what we did there?) that states are only required to submit an assurance to the Department that they will adhere to college- and career-ready standards. States will determine those standards, not the federal government or any other body. In other words, neither CCSSO, NGA nor the U.S. Department of Education cannot tell the state which standards to use. States must simply show that they are using high standards that will help every student succeed.

As former Congressman John Kline, chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and who helped write the bill, said, “The federal government should not be able to tell states what standards they can or cannot adopt.  If states want to use Common Core, it is not the place of the federal government to tell them they cannot do that.”

States have already taken ownership of their education standards, reviewing them and making adjustments to meet their students’ needs. Nearly across the board states have kept the bar high, and most are beginning to see improvements in student performance.

Parents and teachers do not see high standards as an impediment to their students’ learning, creativity or classroom experience. In fact, they are calling for high standards.