Earlier this month, Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success released a report assessing states’ ESSA plans. As The 74 reported, their reviews found them “largely lackluster,” a judgment that, at first blush, seems to conflict with Fordham’s own generally positive review of all fifty-one ESSA accountability plans. But don’t rely on first blushes.
The key word in the preceding paragraph is “accountability,” which distinguishes our report from theirs and mostly explains why ours was more positive. Although both reports looked at accountability, Fordham’s looked only at accountability—and only at select aspects of it—and we had good reasons for restricting our analysis in this way.
Both projects assessed “Consolidated State Plans” that states sent to the U.S. Department of Education as part of their obligations under the Every Student Succeeds Act. These submissions were typically more than one hundred pages long, and each set forth its state’s intentions in myriad areas, including assessments, accountability, long-term goals, school turnarounds, instructional support, teacher equity, programs for at-risk students, rural education, and much more.
One problem with reviewing everything in these plans—and a reason, we suspect, why neither report did—is that they’re basically big, complex compliance exercises. They...