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Five Years On, ESSA’s Hallmark Flexibility May Be Undermining Equity, Report Finds

Five years ago, states took back control over public schools.

That’s how Congress framed the adoption of the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by then-President Obama on December 10, 2015. An unexpected bipartisan gift during a period of divided government, the bill swept aside the top-down mandates of its mostly unloved predecessor, No Child Left Behind. In the future, states would instead be trusted to judge failing schools according to their own criteria and provide them with the targeted assistance necessary to turn things around. The watchword, forever on the lips of politicians and the pens of headline writers, was “flexibility.”

At the half-decade mark, however, some worry that very flexibility could be coming at the cost of equity — and historically underserved students will likely bear that cost. 

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