How Have State and District Education Policies Changed in Light of Increased Flexibility?

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 shifted many education policy decisions to state and local control. A new report, The Transition to ESSA: State and District Approaches to Implementing Title I and Title II-A in 2017–18, presents the status of state and school district policies and practices in 3 key areas as they transition to this expanded new role.

The new report is part of a Westat-led study of the implementation of Title I and Title II-A, core programs of ESSA, for the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

Comparing surveys of all states and nationally representative samples of school districts in 2014 and 2018, the study team found

  • States largely maintained their content standards. Districts were more likely to provide supports to implement the standards.
  • More states used student attendance, achievement growth, or test scores in a range of subjects to identify low-performing schools. Districts increasingly reported that improvement activities were used in low-performing schools, particularly teacher professional development.
  • States made little change to teacher evaluation requirements. Districts increasingly adopted evaluation requirements that include
    • Classroom observations by trained staff using a professional practice rubric
    • Use of student achievement growth, and/or
    • Teacher performance ratings with at least 3 levels

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