Statement From The Education Trust on the U.S. Department of Education’s Proposed ESSA Regulations
WASHINGTON – “Amidst all the celebration of a ‘return to state and local control’ surrounding the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, today’s proposed regulations are an important reminder that the U.S. Department of Education still has a critical role to play in advancing the law’s core purpose: resources and expectations for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.
“The proposed regulations bolster some of the key equity levers in the law that we fought for alongside partners in the business, civil rights, and disability communities, including:
- the requirement that all indicators in the accountability system be disaggregated by each group of students, so schools can’t sweep the performance of some students under the rug;
- clarity that “supergroups” cannot take the place of individual student groups, so fast progress in one group can’t mask stagnation or declines in another;
- the prioritization of academic outcomes, so the main purpose of schooling stays in focus; and,
- the requirement that all schools receive a summative rating based on each group’s performance on all the indicators, so parents don’t have to make sense of countless individual indicators.
“But there’s at least one place where even a quick review suggests the proposed regulations fall short: assured action when any group of students in any school is not making progress. For example, by allowing states to define consistent underperformance of any student group relative to statewide averages, the draft regulations undermine the idea that what matters most is whether a group is making progress over time. Rather, it signals that what matters most about a group’s performance is how it compares with that of other students. And by allowing states to limit the definition of consistent underperformance for a group to being in the lowest performance level on an indicator, or being the farthest away from statewide average performance, it undermines the idea — and the Congressional requirement — that any group that is struggling in any school needs help and assured action, not just the very lowest performing groups or groups in a limited number of schools.
“This definition of consistent underperformance is at the very heart of the law and is essential to assuring that struggling students get the support they need. The Department can and should base this definition on the statewide goals and interim progress targets for each individual group that the law requires every state to set.
“We’ll continue to work through the details of this proposal in the coming days and weeks. We look forward to working with our partners and Department officials to preserve the important features of the proposed regulations and make necessary improvements to ensure the final regulations reflect the responsibilities that the federal government, states, districts, and schools have to all children, especially the most vulnerable.”
The Education Trust is a nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college. Its goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign far too many young people — especially those from low-income families or who are black, Latino or American Indian — to lives on the margins of the American mainstream,