- As the U.S. House Education Subcommittee holds a hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act's implementation on Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats are trying to gauge how the Department of Education under Secretary Betsy DeVos is faring in that rollout, according to Education Week.
- Some Republican representatives have expressed frustration with the department’s federal oversight of state accountability plans that have been submitted for approval thus far, while Democrats on the committee are still struggling to figure out what the feedback from the department to states could mean — especially when they strongly disagree with other aspects of DeVos’ approach.
- Democrats intend to critique Republicans for cancelling accountability measures endorsed by former President Barack Obama, and while no one from the Department of Education will be testifying during the hearing, a member of the Government Accountability Office will be on-hand.
Critics of DeVos have expressed surprise at some of the guidance the Education Department has offered states in regard to their accountability plans for the ESSA rollout. In particular, the guidance letter the department sent to Delaware questioned if the state’s achievement goals were appropriately “ambitious.” This surprised those who would have thought DeVos would be wary of using the weight of federal oversight to influence a state’s self-determined accountability standards, even if the department did not necessarily have veto power. It could also change how other states craft and revise their own plans, if they deem it more likely than expected that the department may offer critiques of their definitions for high achievement.
The uncertainty is causing consternation among school administrators and education officials, as was expressed at a recent meeting of the National Commission of the States. Some were concerned that states weren't prepared to meet ESSA standards for teaching English Language Learners, while others were worried that mandates for equity in classrooms would be barely followed by states because of an expectation of minimal federal oversight. DeVos was one of the most controversial appointees of the Trump administration, and many likely had a pre-determined vision that she would always err on the side of lax oversight. That the truth may be murkier is a fact continuing to cause anxiety for some education officials.