Minnesota proceeds with caution — and questions — as it complies with federal education law under DeVos
A little over a year ago, Barack Obama signed into law the biggest K-12 education reform in over a decade: the Every Student Succeeds Act, a product of years-long compromise in Congress, was intended to smooth over the shortcomings of the previous education law of the land, No Child Left Behind.
The bill, informally called ESSA, aims to lighten the footprint of the federal government in K-12 education policy. Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed to give local education policymakers greater authority to decide how schools and students were performing, and to decide how to allocate federal education dollars.
Minnesota and other states are currently working on their plans for complying with ESSA, and they will ultimately require approval from the U.S. Department of Education. Those plans, however, will arrive in a Washington under much different leadership than the one that signed ESSA into law.
Where Obama’s team believed there was an important role for the federal government to play in education, President Donald Trump’s controversial Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has supported conservative education causes — like providing vouchers to students attending private schools — and an ethos of taking power away from D.C.
At the same time, in her brief tenure as education chief so far, DeVos has signaled she may use her authority to encourage states to adopt policies in line with those of conservative reformers. Compounding that, Congress has overturned Obama regulations that set some boundaries for complying with the new law — leading many in the education world to believe it’s open season on education policy in the states.
As they draw up plans to comply with ESSA, how are Minnesota’s education authorities and professionals adapting to this radical change in the dynamics of education politics?
Tracing Washington’s role in education
Washington has had a meaningful hand in K-12 education policy since 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA.
Intended to be reauthorized every five years, ESEA sets the ground rules for federal K-12 education policy and allocation of federal dollars. But ESSA’s forerunner, No Child Left Behind, was on the books for over 13 years, even as it grew increasingly unpopular.
Championed by George W. Bush, No Child Left Behind was centered on the concept of accountability, or making sure that schools receiving federal education dollars are delivering measurable, positive outcomes for students.
No Child Left Behind mandated that schools meet rigorous “yearly progress” benchmarks in subject areas, something determined by a strict schedule of standardized testing. That testing was also intended to help educators locate and address the gap in achievement Minnesota proceeds with caution — and questions — as it complies with federal education law under DeVos | MinnPost: