ESSA Was Crafted to Give Control and Oversight Back to States

Outspoken Common Core opponent Sandra Stotsky writes in a recent piece on the conservative website New Boston Post that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has “ensured tighter federal control over state standards and tests,” and makes “all public school teachers, administrators, and students in every state accountable to the federal government.”

However, ESSA was specifically designed to give control over education policy back to states and local officials. 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. And as we’ve written in the past ESSA also removes previous problems of tying federal funding to the States’ decisions and adoption of standards and assessments.

To Stotsky’s larger point that high standards and current accountability measures aren’t working, she should take a better look at the results. Last year, most states made significant improvements in student proficiency in math and reading. Some of the biggest gains were made by third-graders, who have spent most of their academic careers learning to higher classroom expectations. At the same time, states have become more forthright in reporting student readiness; last year a majority of states significantly narrowed their “Honesty Gap.”

The passage of ESSA, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, clarifies the federal government’s role in standards and accountability. States are hard at work listening to parents, students, educators, and community leaders about what they want included in their plan. Despite the claims of Stotsky and others, ESSA gives states and local leaders the opportunity to step up and ensure all students’ needs are met.