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States Lead Now: From Compliance Officer to Leader

How states can leverage ESSA to advance equity and excellence

In this new era of national education reform, the need for state-level leadership is more important than ever. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states a swath of new responsibilities including the discretion to redefine statewide accountability, create strategies for school turnaround, and build new systems for financial transparency. Since Congress revoked the ESSA accountability regulations that served as guidelines, the landscape is murkier and more complicated than ever, especially for those on the front lines.   

Our new newsletter, States Lead Now, draws on our extensive work with districts and states across the country to demonstrate how states can embrace this moment as an opportunity to promote equity and excellence. In the coming months, this newsletter will shed light on three topics:

  • Beyond Transparency & Compliance: How states can use the financial reporting requirements specified in ESSA to advance a broader charge for equity and excellence
  • The Turnaround Opportunity: How ESSA creates accountability and carves out new resources to help states improve their lowest performing systems and schools
  • Follow the Money: How the mechanics of state funding formulas can affect not just the level of funding school systems receive, but how well they use these resources to support the needs of their students


Beyond Transparency and Compliance: How States Can Use ESSA to Advance Equity and Excellence

The financial transparency provision in ESSA mandates that districts publicly report per-pupil expenditures at both the district and individual school levels. This is a complicated, yet vital, task that will create visibility into not only how many resources schools and districts have, but how well they use those resources. By designing and implementing a methodology that pushes districts to make strategic, data-driven decisions for the equitable distribution of resources, states can seize this opportunity to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to equity and excellence.

Since Congress revoked the ESSA accountability regulations, states must navigate this work without federal guidance. So, where should states begin? ERS recommends the following resources:      

  • From Financial Transparency to Equity: ERS and Chiefs for Change detail the implications of new federal reporting requirements and explore the steps states can take to make financial transparency a springboard for real equity and better student outcomes.
  • Spinning Straw into GoldStates can use ESSA as an opportunity to go beyond financial reporting and develop a broader set of metrics strongly related to educational equity and excellence. In our paper, Spinning Straw into Gold we examine the gold mine of data that states already have available to generate such metrics and the vast impact they can have on local decision-making.
  • Experts weigh in on the path forward under ESSA. Experts from the field are already weighing in on recent changes to ESSA regulations:

1. The Status of ESSA’s School-level Financial Requirement (Now that the regulations are gone)In a new blog post from Edunomics, Katie Hagan and Marguerite Roza explain why states still have a tremendous opportunity to exercise new flexibility, while still complying with the letter of the law.

2. How to use the Per-Pupil Mandate to Advance Equity and Excellence: In a recent contribution to PIE Network, ERS’ Jonathan travers shares what advocates can do to ensure this important moment for states does not pass us by.  

ERS Work with States to Make Stronger Districts

Through its work with school systems around the country, ERS has learned just how important the role of the state is in supporting student outcomes. In 2012, ERS launched the state practice area to help state-level actors identify unique opportunities to support equity and excellence on a broad scale. You can learn more about our partnerships on the state practice area page State Work for Stronger Districts on our website or by contacting us directly


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