ESSA’s Long-Touted Flexibility Could Be Harming Equity Efforts, Says Report

ESSA’s Long-Touted Flexibility Could Be Harming Equity Efforts, Says Report

December 10, 2020

A report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education found troubling signs in its analysis of 10 state accountability plans as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. The findings suggest that wide ranging flexibility built into the law may be undermining efforts to identify the lowest performing schools and students for increased support. Reporting for the 74 Million, Kevin Mahnken writes that while the law’s congressional authors intended to give states freedom in deciding how to target resources and interventions for schools, the flexibility was “supposed to be mixed with firm guardrails” meant to protect disadvantaged schools and students. States like Florida were able to identify significant portions of its schools for some form of intervention, but many of the lowest performing schools in states like Michigan and Connecticut were entirely overlooked. The report’s author, Anne Hyslop, said that under-identification of schools in state ESSA plans has major implications for students, citing Mississippi, where African American students are 17 times more likely to attend an F-rated school than white students.