THE 74 — Originally published April 24, 2017
With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, Congress tossed the keys for K-12 education back to states and school districts. However you feel about the expanded federal role in K-12 education since No Child Left Behind was signed in 2002 — whether you saw it as a necessary nudge or federal overreach — that era has officially ended. Our schools need state and local leaders to take the education wheel now. But after 15 years of complying with federal regulations, their driving skills may be a little rusty.
Now is not the time for steering clear of the hard stuff. Now is the time to rekindle local leadership, to invite superintendents, principals, and teachers to think ambitiously about ways to improve schools. Now is the time to foster collaboration among local districts when they confront similar challenges, and to work together to identify what’s working and what’s not. With the evidence needed to bring others on board, we can finally break the cycle of faddish starts and stops, and generate staying power for effective reform.
The most valuable parting gift that Congress included in ESSA was the opportunity for state leaders to allocate certain federal dollars competitively, rather than by formula. By exercising that option, state leaders can use federal dollars both to jump-start a new wave of local educational innovation and to identify more impactful ways to spend their own taxpayer dollars in the future…
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Thomas Kane is the Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard University and faculty director of Center for Education Policy Research. Through its Proving Ground project, CEPR will be supporting districts to find solutions to chronic absenteeism and improving the use of educational software.