Does School Accountability Matter to the Trump Administration?

With 2017 upon us and a new administration in Washington prepared to take over, it’s a good time to reflect on the federal role in public education. Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought. Some liberals or progressives think the federal government should actively advocate for groups of kids who too often lose out: low-income, special education, minority, English-language learner, homeless, migrant and rural. They are lamenting the closing days of an administration that pushed hard on states to hold districts, schools and even teachers directly accountable for student outcomes. On the other hand, some liberals who are more in line with teachers unions have resisted accountability that is linked to standardized testing. They tend to agree with conservatives that the federal government should exercise minimal oversight and trust that states, districts, schools and educators will do the right thing for kids by setting a high bar, being transparent about results, and enabling local educators to innovate. These unlikely allies part ways, however, on the issue of choice. The new administration strongly supports public charters and public vouchers for students to attend private schools and wants to expand the federal role in promoting choice. Many conservatives, however, think there is no federal role in education and won’t even support a federal school choice program. They just want the department to go away and leave education entirely up to the states. So far, President-elect Donald...

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