The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) is a law passed in 2015 that sets out to ensure that all students are afforded an equal opportunity to succeed through public education. In essence, the Act requires that states implement education programs that put students on a track to succeed and do not overlook certain groups of students in favor of the majority. Under the current ESSA framework, states are given much of the control, and the federal government acts only as a stop-gap to ensure that the standards set by the state are not too low.
In recent news, New York has sought a waiver from the ESSA mandates. New York has requested waivers from two provisions. First, New York is seeking to administer standardized testing for special needs students “below their chronological grade level.” This would allow schools to provide some special-needs children with standardized tests that were designed for younger, less advanced children. In theory, the children would perform better on these tests, and in turn New York would have an easier time meeting its education goals.
New York is also seeking to exclude the test results of recently enrolled English learners from the students’ results used to calculate the state’s progress toward its education goals. Again, the state hopes that by excluding these students who presumably are performing poorly, the overall New York education picture will look more favorable.