Greater State and Local Decision-making is the Right Choice

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The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its authors have been clear since the law’s passage that greater autonomy in decision-making must be given to the states and local education agencies. Today the U.S. Department of Education announced that, in addition to its current negotiated rulemaking session, it will only begin regulatory processes in three more areas of the new law this year:

1.       State accountability systems and reporting

2.       Submission of state plans

3.       Title I, Part B innovative assessment demonstration authority

This is the right choice for the Department and will allow for greater innovation and less prescription. SIIA still urges the Department though in these few rulemaking processes to continue to adhere to the law and its authors – regulate lightly and provide guidance where regulation is inappropriate.

SIIA previously submitted comments to the department on the announced provisions slated for rulemaking.

ESSA requires states to develop statewide plans for Title I implementation. Aside from consultation with several stakeholder groups, the law provides states wide latitude in developing these plans. Federal regulation should be minimal in order to maintain this flexibility. The department should instead provide guidance to states on issues to consider in plan development – especially long-term plans for digital learning conversion.

The innovative assessment demonstration authority is a unique opportunity for states and school districts frustrated with current assessment regiments to develop new systems to address their educational needs. It is critical that the department not be overly prescriptive in how participants may exercise their flexibility. Innovative assessments likely to be considered and tested under this program, such as competency-based and interim, will have many serious considerations for implementation, such as statewide coordination of curriculum for interim assessments. In lieu of restrictive regulation, the department should assist states through research, guidance, and technical assistance on these critical considerations.