In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released final regulations on school accountability, state plans, and data-reporting. States are developing plans to incorporate the regulations ahead of two submission dates – one in April and one in September.
President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in December 2015, reauthorizing the federal government’s oversight of public education. DOE released draft accountability rules in May 2016 and received more than 20,000 public comments.
The final regulations, posted by DOE to the Federal Register on November 29, 2016, “incorporate the valuable feedback that the Department received through the public comment process, while maintaining the focus on providing states with new flexibility to ensure that every child gets a high-quality and well-rounded education, and enhancing equity and preserving critical civil rights protections for all students,” the agency’s website reports.
DOE announced some major provisions in November, including giving states “flexibility to develop innovative approaches tailored to their individual needs” and recognizing “the critical role of stakeholders, including parents, students, educators, principals, and other school leaders, in supporting the development and implementation of school improvement activities.”
States must “engage in timely and meaningful consultation with an array of stakeholders” and submit draft plans by two submission dates – April 3, 2017 or Sept. 18, 2017. They have until the end of the 2018–19 school year “to identify schools for comprehensive and additional targeted support and improvement.”
‘A More Federalist Approach’
Lisa Snell, director of education and child welfare studies at the Reason Foundation, says the new rules give more power to the states.
“It really takes a more federalist approach,” Snell said. “This allows each to state the accountability benchmarks and lets them determine who the low-performing schools are. It is a huge improvement to [the draft rules]. It has a lot more flexibility, and, again, it is a return to federalism.”
Sarah McKenzie, executive director of the Office for Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, says the final rules take how students want to be tested into account.
“This really gave states and districts more flexibility in how they measure their achievement,” McKenzie said. “One of the important changes in these final regulations was, for example, that high schools can use locally selected national high school tests instead of state-developed tests. They can use the ACT or the SAT as a part of meeting the requirements of the federal law. It’s giving states an opportunity to customize their assessment programs to meet the needs of the students they are serving.”
Michael McGrady ([email protected]) writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
U.S. Department of Education, “Every Student Succeeds Act Accountability, State Plans, and Data Reporting: Summary of Final Regulations,” November 29, 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/essa-accountability-state-plans-and-data-reporting-summary-of-final-regulations