A State-Led ESEA Compromise


Reposted from the Flypaper:

A few weeks ago, I used a graphic to show the four dimensions of federal accountability, each of which has a range of options. I then used this graphic to show the consensus for preserving NCLB testing. Here I used it to show how eleven major ESEA reauthorization proposals address the other dimensions (remember, minimum federal accountability is on the left; maximum on the right). The total picture is as confusing as subway map.

The best chance for ESEA reauthorization can be found in the approach taken by the nation’s governors, legislatures, and state superintendents. Their proposals, which I have labeled Accountability for Results, hew to one of the key principles of management and leadership—and the heart of the charter school bargain: Set clear goals and give people the freedom to reach them. They would set performance targets but then give states wide latitude in designing school categories and interventions. In other words, tight on ends, loose on means.

It’s essential to underscore that the very state leaders who will be responsible for leading the post-NCLB era are the ones recommending Accountability for Results Moreover, this compromise keeps faith with those demanding we give K–12 authority back to the states and those demanding we continue protecting disadvantaged kids. It would merely require the Right to agree to include explicit performance targets and the Left to agree to give states greater flexibility in tackling challenges. Important details would still need to be worked out (e.g., the role of the education secretary in approving state plans, the consequences for a state’s failure to improve results). But state leaders may have shown us the path to reauthorization.

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