Answering the Call?: Explaining How States Have (or Have Not) Taken Up the ESSA Accountability Challenge

by Paul Manna, Arnold Shober
Monday, June 15, 2020

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States have sought to exploit the flexibility that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides, and in the process have retreated from strong accountability measures. Overall, we find that states’ ESSA plans tended to be unrelated to prior policy choices and other conditions within states, suggesting that in drafting those plans the authors may not have reflected very deeply on their states’ prior experiences and recent contextual features. As ESSA moves deeper into implementation, we expect to see even more variation in policy development and student outcomes, but, unlike under No Child Left Behind, the states will face more political responsibility for these results given the flexibility that ESSA has provided them.

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About the Authors

Paul Manna is the Isabelle and Jerome E. Hyman Distinguished University Professor of Government at William & Mary. After earning his BA in political science from Northwestern University, Manna taught social studies and coached debate at his hometown public high school in Michigan for three years before earning his MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin.

Arnold Shober (PhD, University of Wisconsin–Madison) is a professor of government at Lawrence University, where he offers courses on public policy, campaigns and elections, mass media, and research methods. His interests include American federalism, education policy, and federal regulation. His most recent book is In Common No More: The Politics of the Common Core State Standards (2016).

About the Author