Advancing a Free Society

A is for Accountability*; What’s at stake in the ESEA debate**

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Liberal reformers and prominent editorial pages are raging mad about the Harkin-Enzi bill’s supposedly weak approach to accountability in its ESEA update. Are they right to be? And is it true that Republicans have become teacher union stooges when it comes to federal education policy?

Let’s start by examining the language that’s causing all of the hullabaloo. Here are the main options on the table when it comes to identifying schools that are eligible for interventions:

  • The Administration’s waiver package. In order to opt-out of ESEA’s Adequate Yearly Progress metric, states must propose accountability systems that “set new ambitious but achievable [Annual Measurable Objectives] in at least reading/language arts and mathematics for the State and all LEAs, schools, and subgroups.” In other words, states must set a goal for each year in terms of the percentage of students reaching the “proficient” standard on the state test. States must also identify “Title I schools with the greatest achievement gaps, or in which subgroups are furthest behind.”