.                        The Every Student Succeeds Act & Lessons Learned
By Stephanie D. Leigh Robinson
  
The Every Student Succeeds Act & Lessons Learned
(A living document)

Winter 2016 (Updated October 2017)
 
If President Jimmy Carter was right when he said: “We need a full-time commitment to education at every level of government— Federal, State, and Local” then the final version of ESSA has just pulled the rug out from under the federal commitment and its much needed oversight duties. This change (seen as biblical in nature with God foreseeing the Trump win, at least, in the minds of Democrats)  is now being hailed, by many, as a blessing in disguise --- especially for groups that oppose school choice as the remedy for inequitable school practices.  

At the same time, civil rights   and human rights in our nation's schools have been weakened under Trump and DeVos. Secretary DeVos even demonstrates that she has not even bothered to review U.S. civil rights issues by stating that she doesn't know of any civil rights concerns. Her response indicates disinterest at best --- showing  that the civil rights of  U.S. students  are a low priority for her, a fact  that should be a cause for alarm. Civil rights, of course, are the "basic ingredients of a democracy."  U.S. parents and community stakeholders should, therefore, call upon their state and political representatives   to bring attention to this concern --- or to ensure that their children's civil rights are, indeed, being protected.    

Starting from a long list of concerns this school year (including but not limited to targeted services and
ESSA parent notifications ), particularly Trump's major educational goal     in which school choice is touted as the civil rights issue of our time, it is is important for parents and community stakholders to hold school officials accountable --- more than ever --- for what goes on in schools. For instance, " The ten largest private-school choice programs in the nation   do not require minimum performance requirements, meaning that a school can fail to serve most of its students and continue to receive taxpayer funds." If parents and community stakeholders want to figure out the exact amount of taxpayer funds that a  school receives or how they spend their funds --- or if they want to  verify whether or not what they actually do works ---- t hey  will have to find out the answers to these questions on their own.  Given these facts, they should, review  s tatements  by politicians from the May 24th budget hearing whose questions highlighted additional concerns about school choice.  Moreover, this hearing  includes statements and questions to Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos from Representative  Mark Pocan  who has focused on this subject for at least 14 years.

While parents and community stakeholders, of course,  state that they are familiar with school choice in all of its current forms --- and, to date, tend to favor it when it comes to their own children, these ESSA provisions remain a gamble for far too many parents and community stakeholders. To make meaningful decisions about school choice then they must first understand  a school's high-quality, easy to understand and, most importantly, timely transparency and accountability goals. Reviewing the research literature on school choice is also a necessary step that they must take if they want to understand and then contribute to the educational discussions about school effectiveness or governance analysis plans.

Most importantly, they should ask about leadership capacity. For instance, what are leaders doing to improve i nstruction and/or to increase quality and performance?  More to the point --- What are they telling parents about classroom instruction? According to past studies (including this one) as well as  present  studies  (and this  article ),  principals want to be "liked" by teachers (when all is said and done) at the expense of students so that they tend to tell the public that teachers are effective even when they are not. Note: ESSA does not address this longstanding concern in which far too many school officials and politicians place their  political needs (?) over the needs of children. This practice renders the public clueless about school effectiveness and, particularly, classroom instruction (a practice that even places the parent/teacher conferences in question as well).  

This discrepancy between effective or ineffective teachers, of course, will show up when the focus remains on the actual student proficiency results of each subgroup --- results that many educators want the public to ignore.  For all the hoopla originating from educators and school leaders about the weight of test scores in determining the ranking of schools, the scores, at least, reflect or explain to parents and community stakeholders what is going on in schools. School leaders and educators who try to hide this fact are, in essence, saying that parents do not need access to this type of informtion and that they, alone as school based representatives should be able to think for parents or determine what is important to all stakeholders.

They also want all stakeholders to believe that if they have failed at educating a certain subgroup of students then anyone who tries to educate these same students will fail, too, a fact that they reinforce by creating policies and practices or explanations that reinforce this failure mindset.  ESSA, through the state accountability plans, for instance, is supporting these questionable practices by allowing states to implement lower standards for certain students without placing the weight of leader and teacher effectiveness at the center of what is taught and what is learned in schools. In other words, with ESSA, the importance of leadership effectiveness  and teacher quality and/or capacity, including the importance of a leadership analysis plan or  teacher evaluations are not considered to be critical factors according to many school officials who had the responsibiliity of assigning value or determining the weight of key factors tied to the ranking (or purpose) of schools in their state accountability plans.  

To compensate for these school practices, parents and community stakeholders must ensure that the ESSA goals and the ESSA flexibility provisions are discussed, including the critical importance of the targeted interventions, which should be based on best practices or the gold standard in research. Unfortunately, the effective implementation of ESSA goals (in a timely manner) will, more than likely, be a challenge for states, districts and schools across the nation based on lessons learned and is a reminder that reinforces the importance of the dissemination of parent notifications about any or all of the  ESSA legislation requirements or mandates. (Consider the former NCLB legislation, i.e., " Courts became major players in the formation and implementation of education policy over the second half of the twentieth century, and they appear likely to retain this role. ")

That some parents and community members will choose to overlook the need for accountability in spite of lessons learned (consider the opt out of testing movement) and  will see its absence as an expression of their own value systems and/or idiosyncratic preferences --- these interpretations of accountability weaken school choice options, in particular. They also serve as a telltale sign that  all parties need to weigh their options more thoroughly in order to determine if the transparency and accountability mechanisms (in use) are truly effective in distinguishing between what works and what does not work  for students. (This omission causes the achievement gap.)

They should, therefore, ask:

               What are the problems posed by the realities of unaccountable governance, unproven                                              accountability programming and uncertain evidence of impact?  McGee, R. and Gaventa, J.,                                    Shifting Power? Assessing the Impact of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives, (2011)
               IDS Working Paper. 

To be clear, (in spite of parent preferences for school choice), Its purpose, on the face of it, and in theory, shows that it  still desperately needs to expand into:   school choice based on transparency and accountability in school governance . . .   Without question, parents need to determine if they are making the right decisions for their children. What they do not want to do is simply trade one failing school for another one. As a result, even if school officials don't know it, parents know that they will always need accurate, timely data to make decisions on behalf of their children beyond student growth measures with data available that supports actual student achievement in all schools and for all students.   Note: Secretary Betsey DeVos, head of the department of education, who has very little power to act will push school choice, nonetheless. 

To  a wide range of diverse citizens, however, school choice represents an example of "giving up" on equality, equity and excellence which should be found in all traditional public schools ---   a type of defeatism, if you will,  based on a direct response to the teachers' unions and their negative impact on the  public school system.   This response has a lot to do with the original intent of ESEA 1965 and the unions' ongoing use of excuses to define the majority of poor children of color ---  a role in which the unions contradict the whole purpose of the law. That they must resort to political myths against children to defend their  own ineffectiveness --- without holding themselves or school leaders responsible for strong accountability in schools will always be a failing strategy that has already turned the  public  school system into   mere employment factories for their ineffective members (page 1665) --- at the expense of children.       In fact, in spite  of the history of the civil rights movement,  the unions (in the last election) stood along side racially insensitive political groups and boldly fought against enforceable mandates for effective accountability standards, effective (objective) state assessments,  effective teacher evaluations  --- and (believe it or not) fought against any distinctions between effective and ineffective teachers,  and/or school sanctions and penalties for ineffectiveness in schools.

It is, therefore, not out of the ordinary for Americans to believe that school officials and teachers unions (in the United States of America) have failed American children, particulary children of color (Consider the PISA and NAEP scores or the 6 schools in Baltimore where not one child is proficient, etc.).  Clearly, whatever school leaders are doing it does not work when it comes to children of color .  They create consortiums, etc. to address problems but the same opportunity gaps and  failing schools persist. If they do speak to parents they tend to cherry pick the parents who will represent all other parents --- while most of these parents
have not done their homework about the inequitable practices or the  failed stategies that school officials utilize in schools. This very act or overall  strategy shows that what they need most, of course, is a basic understanding of the purpose of democracy or social inclusion for they could learn a lot from the parents  who are socially excluded or who disagree with them and who are angry that their children are not being served.

And yet, this school year, children of color will be taught with the same low standards across this nation, which will, in turn, lead to a watered down curriculum --- that will produce low test scores, etc. etc. etc.  As Secretary DeVos said: ---  This school year, for many children, will simply be a repeat of what was done in previous years. What she did not say is that children need school representatives to be transparent and accountable to all children --- if they cannot do this then parents, of course, should send their children to a higher performing traditional school or  charter school that doesn't mind being  transparent and held accountable for the education of all children.  If unions want parents to keep their children in public schools they will need to promote the   fair distribution of teachers --- and fight for higher standards for all children, etc. and stop treating   poor children of color as a means to an end --- that only serves their collective bargaining "bread and butter" issues.   As National Education Association (NEA) General Counsel Bob Chanin’s once said:

        It is not because we care about children; and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school           for every child… the NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power.

This lost battle then to the unions is what gave rise to school choice. This giving  up on public schools is, of course, a travesty, which amounts to the running away from union controlled schools.  This defeat of fair and egalitarian values (that could only be fought on American soil where a certain type of racism in any guise still reigns in certain political communities) where adults have stigmitized children for decades to compensate for their own inability to educate ---  is, of course, disruptive to democracy or social equality, along with racial integration --- and leaves far too many parents of color turning to school choice out of necessity (they say).  And yet, if more parents and community stakeholders were showing up for children at meetings (not only would they outnumber unions and their members) they would also find that their voices would be heard --- and not just the voices of cherry-picked parents or parent representatives.

Most importantly, if large groups of organized parents  were to show up and speak up the agendas at these meetings would change, too --- with their added input. Clearly, if more parents always had access to information parents (not teachers)  would be the ones making demands on schools, especially since traditional public schools are --- so to speak,  in occupied territory where the special interests of unions dominate or influence state, district and school decisions. In other words, showing up allows parents to prioritize the issues that are important to them (i.e., Holding school leaders accountable for what goes on in classrooms?  Asking for and contributing to identifiable equity and excellence goals? Insisting that  school leaders develop their capacity to turn-around low performing schools? Insisting that teachers are productive, effective, and knowledgeable? Knowing what schools are doing to support the professional development of teachers who must have the know-how to support high quality standards tied to classroom instruction?  Promoting high-quality, research-based standards aligned with a high quality curriculum rather than low standards with proof that this happening --- on any given school day?). Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said it best when he said --- "Things improve in schools when parents make demands on school systems," which still remains an urgent matter when it comes to the education of children.  (It is very telling, of course,  that the unions asked Secretary Duncan to resign.)

The added benefit of showing up then leads to different discussions based on parent and community stakeholder demands. For instance, consider the "Protect Our Schools Act" in MD (in retrospect), which set out to prevent far too many parents  from having access to school choice options, etc.  Be that as it may,  if a well organized  group of parents and community stakeholders had shown up long before the act was passed  "it" would have emphasized children rather than teachers and, in all likelihood, been called the "Protect the Education of Public School Children" Act.  

Any parent education program worth its weight would have encouraged parents to stand up for their right to choose. On the other hand, forcing parents to keep their children in failing schools should be considered a bona fide failed strategy that no longer needs to be substantiated --- or that needs no literature review to prove. Without question, this failed strategy has already been tracked, studied and advised against  --- a strategy that demonstrates that some educators and parent educators do not have the best interests of children in mind.  Clearly, school and parent administrators who supported POSA  should be ashamed of themselves  for  supporting a bill that prevents parents from making their own choices --- as if parents would  or should choose them to make decisions for them. Their  actions, beyond any doubt,  show that they have little or no confidence in what  their brand of education has to offer parents --- if they have to support a bill that prevents parents from having access to a wide range of options.   This then is not about loyalty to any one political group, it is a goal set on higher ground that's based on commonsense -- which knows that everyone in the room is an adult when it comes to disagreements about what serves the educational needs of children.  

In this light, (again) nobody should prevent or stop parents from having access to  options or making the best choices on behalf of their own children (whatever  the reason), a role that parents should never
relinquish to anyone.  While many advocates, researchers, educators, and school officials may disagree on many things they must always agree on one thing:  they must "do no harm," to the educational lives of children,  a sentiment voiced and a standard set  by civil rights organizations as well as  educational research organizations. This also means that everyone must ensure that parents and community stakeholder are included in discourse and decision-making. Creating the enabling environments for this to happen, however, requires opportunity channels for them to build their capacity and weigh their options based on a wide range of ESSA interpretations, a goal that is not going to go away. This goal is a long overdue goal when the track record of the status quo is reviewed --- which shows that they tend to interpret goals from their perspective only. This key goal associated with any school community should include the status quo's views but school communities must reach beyond their views and explore and discuss many solutions connected to high performing school systems, (along with ongoing transparency and accountability updates on any implementation of any initiative  ---   a practice seldom put into practice based on their track record). Still Parents and community stakeholders must  have access to a wide range of meaningful information  --- with documented proof that this has happened   --- so that they are always able to  parent or serve and represent their children in the best way possible --- even inside public school systems.  But, this is not the case in many states throughout the nation. 

Parents and community stakeholders then are facing a dilemma. Two difficult choices have been placed before them at the state and local levels. Their first choice requires supporting special interest groups such as teachers' unions (not to be confused with individual teachers) who have been able to orchestrate the weakening of the federal imprint  as the way, in turn, to weaken strong accountability mechanisms  for the benefit  of their members. Keep in mind though that the unions blame the socioeconomic status of the children for their own failures. (Clearly, their blame is misplaced and should focus on state, district and school-based concerns or even colleges of education who are producing the teachers who will teach in public schools, including what they are taught and if they can teach or if their hearts are really into serving diverse populations, etc. Refer to best practices for class-ready teachers as well as Finland, etc.) Their second choice requires giving in to Trump's idea of school choice without fully understanding how Trump/DeVos define it or if it is a scheme to change a public entity --- built on  equality  --- for the sole purpose of turning it into a capitalistic venture (i.e.,  White Hat? ).  This-is-a-heck-of-a-dilemma --- but it is a dillemma that parents must address.  

With all these ideas in mind, there are still other ideas to review. For instance,  for some,  "a free public education was a “Negro idea” --- the contention of W.E.B. DuBois (referenced in Eugene F. Provenzo’s edited 2002 volume. . . Du Bois on Education, p. 158)." In this sense, the operative word is free --- without financial profit or gain  in which all public schools are committed to and responsible for supporting democratic ideas or equality   and equity  without the need for market-based school choice . Public servants are, indeed, public servants based on this view.   ​ 

For others, school choice continues to be the original response to the gaming of the system. Consider No Child Left Behind, a bipartisan effort  in which Ted Kennedy and other progressives addressed this need in all its forms, an effort that saw black children slowly begin to succeed. These efforts included ensuring that school officials understood the importance of transparency and accountability in school governance without using tactics such as pushouts. It meant focusing on reporting requirements based on disaggregated data tied to annual testing and disseminated through state and district report cards. It meant targeted interventions and student test data tied to teacher evaluations. It meant parents had access to information about highly qualified teachers and supplemental services --- all  wiith timelines and penalties in place to address school official sloth, motivation or even equity (refer to the NCLB 2014 proficiency deadline), etc. It meant offering parents school choice options if the school was not effective at educating its students. Capacity development for parents in this area, however, still needed cooperation from or with school leaders, especially in regard to having access to NCLB supplemental services and school choice, etc.  These mandates, however, were ignored by far too many school officials who never fully implemented a wide range of  provisions effectively throughout the U.S. They also did not bother to even explain what AYP was. . . Consider my response to this problem(s) years ago. 

Note: So what will it mean for public school children when ESSA, as the current national education law, fails to provide enforceable timelines or sanctions, penalties and consequences for ineffectiveness  --- or strong accountability mechanisms, etc.? (Remember:  Instruction and test scores improve with strong accountability mechanisms in place.)  Some educators and educational journalists have already rendered ESSA as simply a bad case of "theatre" due to this omission with both conservatives and liberals serving as the actors.  It also " does not require states to evaluate teachers " in any meaningful way. This is not a surprise since parents must also remember that the unions who claim to be liberal joined forces with conservative policians who fought to omit this ESSA federal mandate (in which public schools must bear some resemblance to public schools in guaranteeing that students have access to class ready teachers). F rom this standpoint, it is clear that ESEA/ESSA's problems are due to the historical habit belonging to unenlightened times or undeveloped nations called the "elite capture of the public school system" by both racially insenstive politicians and teachers' unions (How else could this have happened?) They, of course, have forgotten  the true purpose of the U.S. public school system --- or even their own roles as public servants if they take the time to reflect on  their actions, which, in our own country, can be  explained, discussed and  tracked.

But wait --- there is a third solution to be found in all of this  (as already mentioned) if the public's input is added to these discussions or the equation, a share that balances or levels the playing field.  Why is this an ongoing critical need 63 years after the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision? With the “power and authority” of all ESSA accountability systems exclusively back in the hands of state and local education systems with no protection from the federal government from a civil rights standpoint --- (even though this provision is clearly a current legalized, if not historical, conflict of interest since they will be holding themselves accountable for their own plans. . . ), it is an opportunity for parents and community stakeholders  to fight for strong school accountability and teacher evaluation plans at the state level. This strategy includes truly understanding what accountability is and then focusing on its two distinct stages: answerability and enforcement. If state officials or state committees overlook these two key stages or fail to focus on answerability and enforcement, along with agreed upon timelines and easy-to-understand implementation plans, it (accountability)  will have no effect. . . and serve as mere theatre --- or simply more gaming of the system.  From a historical or lessons learned perspective, peer pressure or peer reviews are not solutions to this problem either if enforceability provisions are ignored. ESSA flexibility provisions should also support best practices in transparency and accountability plans.

​Clearly, parents and community stakeholders must be bold in contributing  agenda items   to state and local meetings. They should also take part in the design of any surveys that the states are using to determine their goals, including developing the questions and evaluating the  survey results (cross-referenced). ( Note: W ithout their input and involvement the surveys are not valid or reliable.)  They must discuss, define and interpret the meaning of the goals --- or the prerequisites for their buy-in and/or the legitimacy of state and local goals tied to student achievement. These goal(s) include  any discussion about the implementation timelines and how and in what ways the items or goals will be tracked, analyzed, monitored and supported in promoting strong  equity and excellence  plans  for states, districts and schools. they must meeti to decussed the parent notifications --- all of them thoroughly. These are important overall steps to take, especially since Randi Weingarten, the current  AFT president,  even concedes  that the " states haven’t done the right thing by kids for a very long time while suggesting that the federal government should step in --- (but only? Say what?)  in draconian situations."

Original Document 
 
Is ESSA worth the fight?  If so, what should parents and community know about it and how is it defined? According to Connor Williams from The 74 Million : i t (Every Student Succeeds Act) is a "clear system that serves the political needs of most members of Congress and protects a variety of special interest groups. It combines a thin veneer of civil rights equity with excruciating complexity and uncertain accountability. It takes a relatively simple federal accountability system, removes the teeth, and layers on a bunch of vague responsibilities for states."
 
In the past (as we all know) --- even when federal oversight mechanisms were in place --- state and local public school officials were not always cooperative in respecting federal mandates. For instance, the 
Brown vs. the Board of Education legislation was ignored by many southern political leaders.  They claimed
Brown --- as a historical desegregation decision "violated the rights of states to manage their systems of public education, they, therefore, responded with defiance, legal challenges, delays or token compliance . " History --- as a tool for needed change, of course,  requires public school communities to keep their eyes on the prize and remember lessons learned, especially pertaining to racist practices. And yet, even with these  civil rights goals in mind, by the end of the 1950's "less than 10 percent of black children in the South were attending integrated schools.”
 
Drawing on these previous lessons then, parents and community stakeholders should find it  puzzling to learn that ESSA’s public school accountability systems will operate without the need for  federal sanctions and fines as well as incentives or enforceable standards of performance for all schools, a policy decision 
that goes against accountability research. Public school officials, to date,  seem to have   forgotten  or
have chosen to undermine the importance of strong accountability mechanisms and why they were
needed in the first place. For instance, surely they know that Adam Clayton Powell established the Powell Amendment that sought to "withhold federal funds from any school district that refused to obey the Supreme Court decision prohibiting segregation in public schools."(Please note that  the NEA tried to ignore the Powell Amendment.) George Bush fined states when they failed to develop high, quality standards for their students. Furthermore, according to Richard Elmore and Susan Fuhrman, when districts, in the past, were at risk of state sanctions (page 1680):  "districts responded   constructively to state accountability policies by improving their evaluation, professional development, and curricular capacities."
 
It is also important to note that Robert Kennedy refused to support the Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1965 without strong  accountability provisions since he did not trust school officials or teachers to respond to the educational needs of underserved children. Most importantly, he wanted the accountability provisions to support parents in holding schools and teachers accountable for positive student results.
 
And still  (unbelievably), the latest reauthorization of ESEA or ESSA has ended federal mandates tied to teacher evaluations. They have ended these mandates knowing that history shows: public school 
teachers --- “99% of them --- were considered effective regardless of student achievement” or in spite of  the need for improved instruction tied to actual student learning. To address current public trust and buy-in concerns or the legitimacy of the law, how will states “require and implement measures that correlate with student achievement and not allow teacher evaluation systems to become a watered-down process?" 
 
There are precedents for underscoring the importance of this need to support accurate, objective
information (based on the original intent of ESEA). First of all, evaluation systems produce the data that parents and community stakeholders need “to negotiate from a position of strength, a goal that increases their influence on matters important to student achievement.” Teacher evaluation systems also help school officials remain accountable to the public by tying teacher performance to student results.  (Please refer to the Tempo study findings  to understand how things have changed over the years and/or why this goal is still important.) Moreover, the evaluations help teachers improve their instructional practices.
 
As recent as 2013 , however, research studies continue to prove that most states have not "connected the dots" when it comes to teacher evaluations systems tied to positive student outcomes . At the same time,
the teachers unions and conservative elected officials have ignored best practices and decided that teacher evaluations should not be aligned to objective student test results. They have forgotten that the U.S. public 
school system does not exist  as "employment or political regimes" only --- but serves as a system that, at  the least, expects -- on moral and logical grounds -- something more from their public servants in return for their salaries, which includes holding school officials and teachers accountable for student achievement.  Parents and community stakeholders, therefore, must demand accurate, timely objective data tied to student achievement.  

With ESSA, this means they must take an active role in the creation of the state accountability plans. Clearly, it is a conflict of interest for state officials and teachers alone to create these plans or to hold themselves accountable for school effectiveness or teacher quality.  This goal should begin and end with parents and community stakeholders serving as equal partners in the decision-making process on behalf of children, first and foremost based on transparency, accountability and responsiveness measures and goals across the board (with specific timelines rather than mere  progress toward a goal). 
 
Why is community organizing   important? While a review of lessons learned shows that there  is barely any evidence to prove that states and local education systems are equipped to provide all public school students with a high quality education, there are many well-documented examples of the gaming of the system --- at the state and local levels. Evidence points to a wide accountability gap across the nation with high numbers of segregated schools,  student pushouts,  ineffective teachers, resource inequality  as well as disproportionality in special education, suspensions, and expulsions for children of color. The misuse of Title One funds is commonplace, too and the use of block grants has  made it hard to track the implementation of program effectiveness at the local level, etc. 
 
Allowing states across the nation to create their own standards and assessments is another example of the gaming of the system since  it allows far too many state officials to hide behind low standards to support grade confusion. "This variation has created a challenge in understanding the ability levels of students across the United States because there is no means to compare the proficiency levels established by one state against the others directly." For example, an "A" in one state may be a "D" in another one, a practice (supported by conservative politicians who want local control of schools but who also tend to represent the states with the worst scores) that will continue under ESSA. To combat this gaming of the system parents and community stakeholders must demand uniform, high quality standards such as the Common Core (Please refer to my  blog for more on this topic.) or more specifically: uniform, high quality standards aligned with high quality tests  for the sake of U.S. policy coherence across the nation. Again, these goals do not appear to be important to teachers unions and conservative politicians in spite of lessons learned . As a result,  parents, (especially military parents) community stakeholders and the public, in general will 
continue to be confused about the "vastly different standards" in different states.
 
In spite of this confusion, politicians who want to limit the power of the federal government also want the public to believe that the answers  to the public education system can only be found and addressed at the local level. They make these statements even as they overlook the fact that local school systems have a history of failing to implement research-based best practices or programming tied to school effectiveness.
With these facts in mind, most citizens know that none of us are  geographically bound by the ideas of any one area. The power of the Internet as well as comparing and contrasting PISA, TIMSS and NAEP scores across states and/or nations will continue to assist parents in better understanding  school reform efforts, including their need to understand the timely, effective implementation of best practices or research-based programs at the state and local  levels.  
 
Questions also continue to center on why states and districts will be "required" to use locally developed, evidenced based interventions” for the bottom 5 percent of schools and in schools where less than two-thirds of students graduate. What if the very best interventions are gold standard (scientific-based research, randomized controlled trials, peer reviewed, etc.) evaluated interventions and what if they are not locally developed? Furthermore, why does this law only focus on the lowest 5 percent of schools for interventions?

Since accountability systems require sanctions, fines, incentives, etc. and ESSA is, instead, depending on
the good faith efforts of states for 95% of the schools how will the accountability needs of parents and community stakeholders be met for the schools that are not at the bottom 5%? How will states provide stakeholders with timely, accurate information about school effectiveness or the data that they must have to make meaningful decisions about school administrators and teacher effectiveness connected to overall student achievement? Rishawn Biddle references Anne Hyslop's study on this subject and states:  
 
                    73 percent of 6,058 failure mills in 16 states identified under No Child in 2011-2012 were allowed                          to escape scrutiny under this formula. Altogether, 4,458 schools were allowed to provide shoddy                        curricula and instruction to 2.4 million children; this included 578 failure mills serving 319,000                                children that would have been forced to overhaul their operations after six years of failure.                                      Because the five percent limit would now apply to every state (and not just to those currently                                under the waiver gambit), the futures of millions more children will be ignored. 
 
In response to this concern, we are led to believe that ESSA resources for states will support school turnarounds. Please note: presently, 80% of states have already admitted that they do not know how to
turn around low performing schools. What paradigm shift will have to occur for states  to meet the
accountability concerns of parents and community stakeholders for children in school turnarounds? 
In other words, contrary to what politicians are saying, state and local systems are not ready to operate
on their own or have not yet earned the right to exclude the federal government from ensuring student success in public schools
 
Moreover, state flexibility concerns in the law will can weaken or strengthen ESSA accountability systems (refer to page 644 ), especially in regard to Title One aid depending on how this provision is used. It is, therefore, of critical importance for parents and community stakeholders to contact their state educational and political representatives to participate in the decision-making process centering on state flexibility .  For instance, "ESSA allows states and districts to use interim assessments in a new way: by combining their results into one summative score for federal accountability. But t esting experts say it can be difficult to produce valid scores that way. . . "
 
ESSA indicators are also in question and should be linked to school accountability, including but not limited to graduation and truancy rates. Indicators focusing on governance analysis and its results are critically important to compare and contrast schools in regard to school resources, i.e. effective teachers, research-based textbooks tied to high-quality research-based standards,  including information on leadership and teacher professional development are critically needed for parents to compare and contrast schools. While student engagement is important it is contingent or dependent on the educational foundation of  any school or what the school is actually offering its students. It, therefore, makes sense for parents and community stakeholders to know if school quality is aligned to (uniform) high quality, research-based standards, a high quality, research-based curriculum as well as assessment(s), professional development, instructional leadership, teacher effectiveness, and high quality classroom instruction (on any given day), etc.   School ratings support this purpose as well. 

They should also have access to information about each subgroup ( rather than super data groups , a concern that was addressed by Senator Harkin and Representative Miller who brought attention to this matter in 2012 by stating that this strategy was actually masking the individual differencs of distinct subgroups. ). Subgroups then help parents and community stakeholders to better understand how each subgroup is served or what particular targeted interventions are used to support student achievement for each group.
 
Then there's the U.S. Secretary of Education role, which has been weakened and is no longer apparently important from the point of view of unions and conservative politicians (as mentioned). This decision leaves public school students without a chief spokesperson who is charged with  listening to the parents or overall public or acting in their  best interest at the federal level.  As a NEA website post (celebrating the passage of ESSA) put it : the secretary can no longer "dictate specific mandates on standards and assessments, how much elements of the accountability plans should count for or even the criteria themselves, parameters of the accountability system, additional data collection, exit requirements, teacher evaluation, and the definition of teacher effectiveness." 
 
The Secretary of Education's diminished role, however, is not a cause of celebration for parents of  color.
Clearly, this law ignores  the fact that the public school system is now 51% children of color. It also ignores
the reasons why  parents of color tend to trust the federal government's oversight abilities and direction
in supporting equity and excellence in schools, a belief originating from  its critical involvement and responsibility in U.S. race relations, including its role in strengthening  transparency and accountability in schools.  How will states address these concerns if this belief, at its root,  has not been fully recognized by state and local public education systems?
 
So --- after signing ESSA, President Obama said: "Now the hard work begins. Laws are only as good as
the implementation." As a former community organizer, perhaps, he knows something  that many of
us do not know -- some lesson we have overlooked. Based on his experience with communities, he ---
of course, would be one of the very first individuals to know how real change occurs. He would know 
that if a public school education is, indeed, a  civil right --- then based on lessons learned, ESSA will
always need the constant involvement of the public to track  its progress and support its effectiveness. 
From this perspective, the public is the missing link in school reform efforts that everyone talks about but underestimates. 
 
Parents and community stakeholders must, therefore, accept and share the challenge and  commitment
to operate at a deeper level, on the ground, in support  of the Every Student Succeeds Act --- from focusing
on the development of its state accountability systems to its teacher evaluations systems at the state and local levels. As Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education once said, parents and community stakeholders "must be the ones who remain committed in making on-going demands on schools, school officials and teachers to ensure public school effectiveness." This commitment must not be reactionary but decidedly proactive in determining the best possible solutions tied to a world class public education system for all children. If there was ever a law calling on the involvement of everyone in meeting this task (parents and community stakeholders across races/ethnicities, gender, religious affiliations, geographical regions, socioeconomic status and age groups), it is this one --- for with it the door is wide open for real change --- stakeholders must only show up and walk through it.