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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