RealClearEd Today: a Close Look at the Department’s New Peer Review Criteria for State ESSA Plans; New Mexico Gov. Vetoes All Higher Education Funding

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Education Today

Good morning, it’s April 18, 2017. This morning at RealClearEducation we have news, commentary, analysis and reports from the top of the education world.

When Pres. Trump and Congressional Republicans did away with the Obama-era ESSA accountability rules, one of the objections from critics was that it would lower the bar for accountability systems at the state level. One of those critics was the Fordham Institute’s Brandon Wright who had previously praised the Obama administration’s accountability rules because they explicitly allowed states to use accountability systems that measured student achievement at multiple levels, not just “proficiency." When Republicans rolled back the regulations, he worried that states would revert to simple proficiency rates. 

However, since the Department of Education released its new State Plan Peer Review Criteria that lays out how the department will approve or reject state ESSA implementation plans, Wright has changed his perspective. In a new piece for Fordham, he writes that the new criteria “like the regulations that came and went before it, expressly permits accountability systems that measure student achievement at multiple levels—not just “proficient"—using a performance index." Wright praises the new peer review criteria but also points out that it’s now contingent upon the states to take advantage of it and improve their accountability systems.

In state and local news, New Mexico is locked in a high-stakes budget standoff centered on funding for the state’s colleges and universities. To make a long story short, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed a budget which included $350 million in new taxes. Republican Governor Susana Martinez opposes the new taxes and used her veto power to nix the taxes as well as funding for the legislature and all state colleges and universities, setting up a dramatic battle over the tax hikes. On Monday, Martinez softened her stance a bit saying she would fund the state’s higher education system so long as the legislature can provide funding without raising taxes. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation there. 

Here are some other stories we’re tracking this morning: A new policy issued by the USDA will require that all school districts detail how they handle students who can’t afford to purchase school lunches. NPR explains how the policy hopes to put an end to so-called “lunch shaming." In California, lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate income tax for teachers. On its face, it sounds like an interesting proposal for encouraging more teachers into the profession. However, Andrew Rotherham and Kaitlin Pennington explain why it’s a bad idea. James M. Lang is penning a great series on the book “The Distracted Mind" and how smartphones and technology are influencing learning. 

Below are more highlights of the content already on our site this morning. To see everything we have, visit

NEWSMAKERS: A new study finds three indicators that can help determine whether a new charter school will succeed or fail. 
IN THE STATES: Is your child ready for kindergarten? A close look at “redshirting" and whether it really helps children. 
Today on RealClearEducation:

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Analysis & Commentary

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Research & Reports

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