Will California Ensure School Accountability under ESSA?

Last week, EdSource’s John Fensterwald reported that California’s top two education officials, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Education outlining their complaints with new federal regulations proposed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The officials argued in their letter that the draft rules would conflict with the state’s efforts to create its own new school accountability system.

California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst
California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst

 

Fourteen California education advocacy organizations — including Students Matter, EdVoice, Children Now and The Education Trust–West — joined together to submit their own letter to U.S. Education Secretary John King in support of the proposed new regulations. The nonprofit groups expressed their support for rules “that are designed to help keep states focused on equity and the needs of all students as required by ESSA” and criticized the state for failing to develop a unified accountability system yet.

The advocacy organizations’ letter points out their shared support for several specific provisions of the proposed regulations that are key to addressing the historic inequities of student outcomes, including those that focus on equitable access to effective teachers. As Fensterwald notes in his report, the California organizations’ position is generally aligned with prominent civil rights organizations and Congressional Democrats, who are “backing stronger federal oversight for schools failing low-income students and English learners.”