It is important to note that K-12 education plays a major role in the development and growth of the population’s competence in a number of aspects of life. It is critical for diminishing the impact of inequality, improving the professional competence of children, and ensuring that the future of the nation is promising. Although a wide range of policies exists in the school system, there has always been a debate about the degree or extent to which the federal government should be involved in the education process. The main reason is that educational priorities might significantly differ from one state to another, making the standardization process a challenging endeavor.
The given school policy analysis will primarily focus on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It should be noted that ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of the Bush Jr. Administration, but it retained some elements of NCLB. The main difference between ESSA and its previous version is giving more autonomy to the states with lesser involvement of the federal government in educational affairs. The primary reason why ESSA was enacted is that NCLB “was scheduled for revision in 2007, and, over time, NCLB’s prescriptive requirements became increasingly unworkable for schools and educators” (U.S. Department of Education, 2022, para. 4). In other words, the relevance and applicability of the previous version became low, which resulted in a major revision and reconstruction of NCLB into ESSA.
The key provisions in ESSA involve a list of requirements for all states to meet, but the federal government does intervene on its own, which provides more autonomy for each state to adhere to the standards. It is stated that “ESSA requires every state to measure performance in reading, math, and science,” but “each state determines the way students are assessed” (Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, 2020, para. 2). ESSA also requires states to develop the State Report Card to inform the parents. ESSA mandates to bring transparency about the school at the lowest 5%, which means that additional support must be provided. Career and technical education must be priorities of investment for schools. The accountability system is set by the federal government, which includes four indicators, but the fifth one is selected by the state. Under ESSA, states submit their goals and plan about education to the Department of Education (DOE) to have their proposals approved, which makes the system flexible and states more autonomous.
Consequences and Effectiveness
The main intended consequence is manifested in allowing states to manage their education with more autonomy. The effectiveness is manifested in the fact that “today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows” (U.S. Department of Education, 2022, para. 3). ESSA also greatly facilitates social and emotional learning by providing a number of funding streams (Grant et al., 2017). Students are no longer forced to undergo frequent and rigorous testing, which was a major problem under NCLB. However, the major unintended consequence is the fact that DOE plays a critical role in the assessment of states’ proposals, which makes ESSA heavily reliant on DOE’s competence and ability to enforce standards. There are valid “concerns about inconsistent feedback and a lack of enforcement of the law’s equity-focused provisions” (American Federation of Teachers, 2017, para. 3). In other words, the practical element of enforcement of ESSA might be problematic.
Opinion of Policy
I think that ESSA is a massive step towards improving our K-12 education because there were too many pitfalls in regard to NCLB. It should be noted that although the latter policy was needed at that time, it had inherent flaws in its design. Vigorous testing and strict oversight of schools by the federal government make the system excessively rigid, which leads to inflexibility and the inability to consider a wide range of regional factors. NCBL was outstanding at helping low-performing students but failed to factor in high-performing ones. It is stated that “ESSA expands opportunities for states and districts to use federal funding for initiatives” (Herman et al., 2017, p. 1). Therefore, ESSA provided the state a higher degree of freedom to reward the latter group as well as help the former one.
Potential Ideas for Change
One of the major ideas for change or modification of the policy is to incorporate evidence-based programs. It is possible that mandating states to provide their goals and plans with solid evidence might improve the effectiveness of the policy. In addition, such a framework might enable more autonomy for the states because states could set their own standards alongside the federal government in a 50/50 format. The main reason is that currently, 4 out of 5 standards are set by the federal government, which is still restrictive in their ability to meet the local demands. Schools should prepare future leaders, workers, and contributors based on the key needs of each state. Setting universal standards brings generalization and some equity at the cost of precision and targeted focus.
In conclusion, ESSA was a massive improvement compared to its previous version of NCLB. The policy is effective and has fewer pitfalls, but it can still be improved by bringing more autonomy to the governance of education.
American Federation of Teachers. (2017). ESSA process reveals pitfalls and promise. Web.
Grant, S., Hamilton, L. S., Wrabel, S. L., Gomez, C. J., Whitaker, A., Leschitz, J. T., Unlu, F., Chavez-Herrerias, E. R., Baker, G., Barrett, M., Harris, M., & Ramos, A. (2017). Social and emotional learning interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence review. Research Report, 2133, 1-154. Web.
Herman, R., Gates, S. M., Arifkhanova, A., Barrett, M., Bega, A., Chavez-Herrerias, E. R., Han, E., Harris, M., Migacheva, K., Ross, R., Leschitz, J. T., & Wrabel, S. L. (2017). School leadership interventions under the Every Student Succeeds Act: Evidence review. [PDF document]. Web.
Office of Elementary & Secondary Education. (2020). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Web.
U.S. Department of Education. (2022). Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Web.