How ESSA fails our students

While the new law is a step in the right direction, according to some ESSA leaves much to be desired

ESSA fails students

We’ve gone on record saying that we, at Thrivist, are fans of the new education law, ESSA. That doesn’t mean that we don’t welcome opposing viewpoints and opinions and we came across just that a few days ago and thought it would be worth pressing into.

We found this article on US News & World Report printed from The Conversation.

In the article the two authors, Mary Battenfeld and Felicity Crawford (both professors at Wheelock College) posit that ESSA doesn’t do enough to change the root causes of education inequality and still leaves low-income students vulnerable.

Some takeaways:

  • That ESSA, like No Child Left Behind places too much importance on K-12 accountability
  • ESSA does not address the root causes of education inequality
  • Removing the federal government from overseeing education does more harm than good within the context of low-income students
  • Far too little money has been set aside to invest in early childhood programs (preschool and pre-K) than is necessary to provide high-quality early education to all students

Download the ESSA guide

While ESSA does still place emphasis on K-12 accountability through standardized testing, there is room for innovation. This is evidenced by the consortium to pilot and (hopefully) revamp standardized testing as we know it. Is it a quick fix? No, but, in our opinions, this is a huge step in the right direction.

$250 million towards early childhood education programs does not seem like enough to adequately provide access to high-quality preschool for students across the country. That money will disappear fast, so we have to agree with the authors on this point.

Our biggest question about this article would be the problem the authors have with giving states more educational control. (To be fair the authors are looking at this issue through the lens of our most vulnerable students.)

They would like to see some policies and language included in ESSA that reflect Lyndon Johnson’s anti-poverty approach in his 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The authors worry about taking control away from the federal government because when the federal government has full control the obligation to education all children becomes unavoidable.

I’m having trouble seeing how states could completely avoid that obligation as well. Seeing as state governments now get more control over their own students, schools and districts one would think that each state would be even more invested in ensuring all children, regardless of location or income is adequately educated.

Is that oversimplification? Definitely.

No law is perfect there are good and bad parts of every law. We’re human after all!

We still believe that ESSA will do more harm than good in all sectors of education including educating and taking care of the most vulnerable students in the country.

Find out more about ESSA 

Download the ESSA guide