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Reading #ESSA Right

After decades of a flawed, top-down approach to education, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) ends the era of federal overreach and restores control of education to its rightful stewards: parents, teachers, and state and local leaders. Signed into law last month, ESSA has been lauded as “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” That’s because the law includes commonsense, conservative reforms that:

These reforms are embedded throughout ESSA. As Education Week recently reported:

The law is meant to ensure states are free to make decisions about accountability, school improvement, standards, and assessments without federal interference … If the secretary chooses to ignore the law, then Congress and state and local leaders can use the tools they have to hold the secretary accountable, [a GOP aide] said. But if the secretary follows the spirit and letter of the law, then state and local school leaders will finally be able to run their schools the way they believe is best, without worrying about the federal government getting in the way.

Perhaps this explains why the National School Board Association described ESSA as “an historic step toward reversing years of undue burden under the No Child Left Behind Act.” And why – just yesterday – a representative from the Council for Chief State School Officers explained to officials at the Department of Education:

ESSA reflects a strong bipartisan congressional intent to restore substantial education authority to states and local school districts. Unlike No Child Left Behind, which codified specific federal accountability timelines and intervention strategies, ESSA empowers states to determine when, under what basis, and how to address the challenges faced by struggling schools.

The American people have a new law placing education authority back in the hands of states and local school leaders. Now it’s up to the department to follow it, and Congress will be watching. Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has pledged to “stay in close contact” with the department to ensure the law is “being implemented as Congress intended.” Parents, teachers, and state and local leaders have waited for more than a decade to take back control of their schools, and they deserve nothing less.

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