On Monday, President Donald Trump signed a bill that strikes down accountability regulations for disadvantaged students. Without this clear guidance for states, they will have to interpret vaguer language on how to measure school quality.
The regulations outlined how states should implement a bipartisan 2015 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). A rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the bill was supposed to give more power to the states and offered greater flexibility on testing, but still ensure that there were federal guardrails in place to define what accountability goals should look like.
“We’re removing these additional layers of bureaucracy to encourage more freedom and innovation in our schools,” Trump said when he signed the bill lifting guidance on ESSA compliance.
States will still need to keep track of schools where subgroups of students — such as English language learners, low-income students, students of color, and students with disabilities — consistently underperform, as well as schools that make up the bottom 5 percent of test scores, or high schools that graduate less than 67 percent of students.
But the rules provided more information on a timeline for state intervention of schools, how states should identify failing schools, and what information states had to provide to parents when report cards are sent out. The rescinded regulations also told states that the consequence for schools that don’t meet these test participation requirements must be severe enough to make schools comply with the law.
Civil rights groups say that without the rules, there will be less accountability for schools that aren’t serving marginalized groups of students. School district and state education officials have also spoken out against removing the rules. Before the vote, Anne Hyslop, a senior associate at Chiefs for Change, a group of state education and school district leaders, tweeted that without the rules, there would most likely be “chaos and delay.”
The National Education Association has been silent on whether Congress should have repealed the regulations, but the American Federation of teachers opposed the repeal.
Before a Senate vote on the rules, AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote a letter to lawmakers. Weingarten wrote, “Repealing these regulations now would not just be counterproductive and disruptive, but would demonstrate a disregard by Congress of school districts’ operations and timelines.”