The Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to provide flexibility to states. “It reins in the national school board!” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) proclaimed.
As we’ve noted several times since ESSA was passed this is not the case and states still have to play “Mother, may I” with the federal government.
Colorado is one such example as Chalkbeat reported this week that the state finally received approval for their accountability plan – one year and two revisions later.
Erica Meltzer writes:
Colorado’s plan was held up longer than any other state’s by a series of disagreements over the best way to measure student achievement, including how to count students who opt out of state assessments. In most of those disagreements, the federal view prevailed, leaving Colorado with two divergent accountability systems, one state and one federal.
“We wanted to stick to our Colorado principles,” said Pat Chapman, executive director of the federal programs unit in the Colorado Department of Education.
Colorado wanted to use its state accountability system developed in 2009 to meet federal requirements, but ultimately the two were not entirely compatible. The state accountability system is more likely to identify schools that are not serving a large share of their students, while the federal system flags schools that aren’t serving certain subgroups, like students who qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, a proxy for poverty, or English language learners, even if their overall numbers look good.
“What we use the federal system for is to identify schools that need additional support and to get additional resources to those schools,” Chapman said.
The takeaway here is that if a state wants to do something that the federal government disagrees with they can, provided they do it in addition to what the federal government requires.
That’s flexibility? That creates more work for the state and de-incentivizes states to go their own way.
This is not surprising, however, as state flexibility under ESSA is a farce.