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Search The essence of ESSA: More control at the district level?

Both rhetorically and substantively, the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) served as a rebuke to the now-unpopular policies pursued by both the Bush and Obama administrations (American National Election Survey, 2018; Edgerton, 2019). Not only did it reduce the discretion of the secretary of education but also it allowed states greater flexibility in meeting the demands of standards-based accountability. In turn, this flexibility has emboldened states, which have more or less ignored the Department of Education’s feedback on the accountability plans the law requires them to submit for federal approval (Duff & Wohlstetter, 2019; and see McGuinn, this issue). 

Since 2015, a team of faculty and graduate student researchers at the Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning (C-SAIL) has collected a broad range of data on ESSA’s implementation across the country, as well as data specific to California, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. These data come from 1) a 50-state database of policies attached to academic standards ( ), 2) surveys of teachers, principals, and superintendents in our six partner states, 3) interviews with state education agencies and district central offices in the six partner states, and 4) targeted site visits with classroom observations and teacher focus groups in the six states. Because we began collecting data immediately after ESSA’s passage, we have been able to observe closely as its implementation has evolved over the law’s first few years.  


Monday, September 23, 2019
Publication Name: 
Phi Delta Kappan
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The relationship between state education departments and local districts is evolving under the Every Student Succeeds Act.