The Detroit Free Press reported last week that Michigan’s state accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act has been rejected, and Acting Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel did the rejecting.
Michigan’s big plan to improve its schools has been deemed “insufficient” by federal education officials, but the state’s top educator said Tuesday evening he expects to resolve the problems within a week.
“The department has determined that the information provided by Michigan was insufficient … to adequately review” the plan, Jason Botel, acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, said in a letter sent Friday.
Michigan was among 16 states and the District of Columbia that submitted plans for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act — the law governing elementary and secondary education in the nation — earlier this year. Other states plan to submit their plans in the fall.
Botel was a surprise pick by the administration due to his support for Common Core, as well as, being a known progressive.
Now there are reports that Botel is out at the U.S. Department of Education. Alyson Klein at Education Week wrote that sources have said he may take on another role within the Trump administration or leave altogether.
Klein also noted the criticism that he has received:
In that role he’s gotten criticism, including from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee and an ESSA architect. Alexander and others have said Botel has gone beyond the boundaries of the law, particularly in his feedback to Delaware which questioned the ambitiousness of the state’s goals. Alexander told Education Week that it appeared Botel hadn’t read the law carefully.
And some state chiefs were miffed at the Trump administration’s responses to their ESSA plans, in part because Trump officials questioned whether states could use Advanced Placement tests to gauge college readiness. Those responses were particularly surprising given that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had signaled a strong preference for local-control over education, and told chiefs in a closed-door meeting earlier this year that they could turn in their plans even if they weren’t fully complete.
It seems to me, though we will never know for certain, is that Botel wasn’t following DeVos’ lead on handling the state accountability plans. Rejecting her home state of Michigan’s plan may have been a bridge too far. If he is out because of his handling of ESSA accountability plans, this could be an encouraging sign of greater flexibility going forward which is probably the best we can hope for until Congress repeals the law.
Right now all we can do is speculate what this means for the future.