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Make ESSA Accountability Rules Clear and Strong, Democrats Tell the Ed. Dept.

The top two congressional Democrats on public school issues in Congress are telling the U.S. Department of Education to create robust and clear accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act that ensure states and districts are looking out for the interests of students from low-income backgrounds and other historically disadvantaged students. 

In their May 24 letter to Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House education committees respectively, stressed that "maintaining strong federal guardrails" in accountability regulations would be crucial to upholding the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's legacy of looking out for disadvanted students, students of color, and others.

"Regulation of statewide accountability system [sic] and school support and improvement provisions will empower states and school districts to utilize new flexibility while maintaining focus on improving outcomes for underserved students, including through adequately resourcing low-performing schools," Murray and Scott wrote to King.

Among their requests, the two lawmakers say that the department should craft ESSA regulations ensuring that:

• States set long-term academic goals and interim progress measures that expect more from traditionally low-achieving groups of students, in order to focus on narrowing achievement gaps.

• The indicators for state accountability ratings generate annual, summative scores reflecting "student learning for all students within each school."

• The participation of all students and all student subgroups on the annual statewide exams is meaningfully factored into schools' state accountability ratings.

• States share "clear and actionable school-level performance information" with educators, parents, and others that leads to "meaningful stakeholder engagement" and involvement in school improvement work.

The Education Department is supposed to release the much-anticipated accountability regulations some time this summer. While civil rights advocates and other groups will side with Murray and Scott on the issue of clear and detailed ESSA rules, congressional Republicans and some state and district advocates will dislike the prospect of regulations for ESSA (which shifts several K-12 policy decisions away from Washington) that could limit some of their discretion. 

Read the full letter below:

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