Last year Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed with bipartisan support. We were told that ESSA gave states more flexibility on education decisions. This was supposed to reign in the overreach by the federal government that we saw with “No Child Left Behind.”

Remember when we were told that ESSA would stop the Feds from forcing Common Core on states? Remember when everyone warned that this 1,000+page federal education law was going to be a big problem? Even when they were telling us that this law was good for local and state control? Several of us warned that by giving the U.S. Secretary unprecedented power, we would see more federal control  over our schools.

As many predicted, the U.S. Department of Education is currently trying to use its regulatory power to force Common Core on the states.   This kind of coercion was exactly what we were told ESSA would not do. Now that the U. S. Department of Education is implementing the rules, they are proposing regulations that pressure unwilling states into adopting Common Core.

ESSA specifically prohibits the federal government from imposing Common Core on the states. However ESSA requires states to “assure” the U.S. Department of Education that they have adopted education standards. Now the US DoE is using these assurances as a way to reject the state’s education standards because they don’t conform to Common Core.

This was one of many requirements included in the 190+ pages of new regulations.  The proposed regulations further impose more federal mandates on states while ignoring the purpose of ESSA.
Expect more bullying by administrators if parents choose to opt their children out of the standardized tests. These proposed regulations require states to take “robust” action against schools that do not get 95% participation by students.

What can you do to make sure these coercive measures are not included in the regulations?

The U.S. DoE is offering a short time for the public to read and comment on the proposed regulations. The public has until August 1st to submit comments. It’s important to take time to add your comments here.


1. The proposed regulation allows the federal government to re-impose Common Core. ESSA makes it clear that each state must “assure” the Department of Education that it has adopted curriculum standards. However, Section 299.16 of the proposed regulation would require each state to “provide evidence” of adopted curriculum standards. As Senator Alexander has noted, this seemingly minor language alteration leaves a potentially gaping hole: under these regulations federal bureaucrats could reject a state’s curriculum standards for insufficient evidence and keep rejecting any curriculum that does not conform to the federal government’s preferred Common Core guidelines.

  1. The proposed regulation creates what is described as a “summative rating system.” This would require each state to come up with a single rating system for its schools based primarily on scores on federally mandated tests. Nowhere in the ESSA is the Department directed to take this action. The bureaucrats have simply made it up.
  2. The proposed regulation would result in the return of federal testing mandates. Senator Alexander has noted that “The heart of the new law is the end of federal test-based accountability.” But the proposed regulation ignores that intent, effectively making federal tests and standards the yardstick for any school found to be “needing improvement.”  Despite widespread opposition to testing mandates, the proposed regulation seeks to require states to take “robust action” against schools which do not reach the arbitrary threshold of 95% participation in standardized tests. The Department of Education is effectively seeking to punish parents who choose to opt out of high-stakes testing, treating their judgement as worthless.
  3. The timeline for implementation is far too short, with states expected to begin complying with the proposed regulation by the 2017-18 school year. However, this timeline is so compressed that it makes it practically impossible for states to develop their own new accountability systems, which is the main stated purpose of the ESSA.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in Bedford, New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can reach her at: