We must remember that these “reforms” were largely abetted by the current Administration as part of a quid pro quo for the states in their desire to get “relief” from NCLB. One recalls that the previous Secretary helped provoke a panic several years ago that all the nation’s schools were on the verge of being labeled failing under NCLB. But, if states would adopt certain favorite policies of the Administration, they could, he announced, avoid the calamity that was looming.
The Secretary had alternative paths available to him. He could, absent a legislative fix, have given relief closer to legislative intent. He could have kept accountability more intact, refusing to weaken subgroup standards and fixing, rather than abandoning, supplemental services requirements. He could have “tolled the statute” as to increasing school identification but done so on the basis of states updating and upgrading their accountability systems consistent with good policy and the intent of the law.
But, as has too often been the case with this Administration, the Secretary chose to expand executive power and cajole state action to adopt teacher effectiveness policies and adopt the common core standards in return for weakened accountability. All this was done at the same time the Administration was pushing these and other favored policies through the Race to the Top program.
As we have learned in the last few months, this was a bad deal, a very bad deal. Accountability was badly weakened. And to what effect?
First, the teacher effectiveness policies were despised and fought by teacher groups. They were never implemented with much impact, in that virtually all teachers were rated effective under the policies. And now the policies are being scrapped increasingly by states that are less and less bound to keep them in place. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/01/06/essa-loosens-reins-on-teacher-evaluations-qualifications.html
The common core standards are proving to have had little impact on student learning, though advocates argue they might down the road. http://jaypgreene.com/2016/03/24/brown-center-concludes-cc-resulted-in-less-than-one-point-naep-gains-and-we-already-got-them/
One problem with this hope for common core is that fewer states each year are remaining committed to following through with the common assessments that were developed to be sure learning is improved in sync with the standards. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/03/23/state-solidarity-erodes-on-common-core-tests.html
While there is no clear proven causality for it, measures for student learning over this period are not promising. NAEP scores have been largely stagnant since 2009, reflected in the failure to see any real gains even in the states that received Race to the Top funds. http://sandykress.weebly.com/blog/did-states-race-to-the-top
And now we have little ESSA, really the child, in part, of these failures, as our new national policy, promising less reform, less rigor, and less accountability in the future. http://sandykress.weebly.com/blog/predictions-for-little-essa and http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/03/essa_and_the_states_florida_ke.html
Weakened accountability was, in essence, the price that was paid for policies that are failing to make a difference and/or are largely fading. Student results are stagnant. And we have worse policy in place. All together, that little bundle of reality amounts to the essence of a bad deal.