How ESSA Could Impact Curriculum and Accountability

ESSA has been touted as the bill that gives control over education back to the states, but what does that really mean? At the 2016 Content in Context from the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group, we will be taking a deeper look into ESSA, how much education systems will really change, and the potential implications for the learning resource industry. Take a look below at some of the comments our panelist have already made about ESSA and how it could impact the classroom.

Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy, Center for American Progress

In an article for InsideSources, Brown advocates for a testing bill of rights to improve testing practices and make it more useful for students, parents, and educators.

“Teachers should have the right to timely data that measure what their students have learned, and that help these teachers diagnose student needs and improve instruction. Teachers should have the right to high-quality instructional material, professional development, and the time and support needed to teach and support their students. And they should have the right to accountability systems that judge school and teacher success based on more than just test scores…Without an accurate and honest snapshot of every student’s progress toward career and college readiness, many parents and students will be caught off guard when they apply to or start college and learn they aren’t prepared.”

Noelle Ellerson, Associate Executive Director, Advocacy and Policy, AASA

Commenting to Education Week, Ellerson talks about the her hope that the U.S. Department of Education will abide by the language and spirit of the law and step back on oversight.

“One of the framing principles of ESSA was to rein in the regulating authority of the Education Department. It seems pretty shortsighted that a department would try to regulate to the max on everything they can. Just because they can doesn't they mean they should. If there were ever a department [that] would find creative interpretations around seemingly tight limits on regulatory authority, we remain concerned [that] this would be the agency to do so.” 

Robert Pondiscio, Senior Fellow and Vice President for External Affairs, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Writing for Flypaper, a Fordham Institute blog, Pondiscio explains why he thinks ESSA is an opportunity for schools to return to emphasizing a well-rounded curriculum and reading across the subject areas instead of concentrating on reading as a discrete subject.

“The sooner schools see building knowledge across the curriculum as Job One in strengthening reading comprehension, the better. Years of treating reading as a discrete subject or a skill—teaching it and testing it that way—have arguably set reading achievement in reverse. You don’t build strong readers by teaching children to ‘find the main idea,’ ‘make inferences,’ and ‘compare and contrast.’ You do it by fixing a child’s gaze on the world outside the classroom window. Measuring inputs, not outputs, is the kind of thing that reform-oriented thinking typically eschews. But with states in the accountability driver’s seat, I could persuade myself that the time has come for at least some foresighted states to set subject matter targets and hold schools accountable for meeting them. This might help reverse the worst effects of the curriculum narrowing and testing mania we’ve seen in the No Child Left Behind era.”

Find out more about the 2016 Content in Context at

Content in Context
Education Policy