As more cards are laid on the table, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the much hyped local control provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was designed to keep the locals, especially parents, under control.

A perfect example is the rushed creation of Washington State’s ESSA Plan.

This is what I discovered and wrote about in the blog post: Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – $8 Million from the Gates Foundation and the Myth of Local Control. 

Were parents “meaningfully involved and consulted in the development of” Washington’s state plan? So far, the evidence I’ve found points to “No”.

When I look over the list of the voting members of the ESSA Consolidated Plan Team, I see no parents listed.

What’s even more egregious: Of the 70 member of the ESSA workgroup, only one is designated as a parent representative – and THEY’RE also associated with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.


Even the Parent and Community Engagement Workgroup had minimal parent input. Of the 22 voting members, three were parents: Ellie Hutton, Laura Regala, and Stacey Klim.  But get this, of the three parent representatives, only one – Ellie Hutton, attended the three meetings of the workgroup. (Meeting minutes: May 20th 2016June 17th 2016, July 15th 2016.)

Even at the state level, it looks like the deck is stacked against parent input.

Now Politico is reporting this:

GROUPS TEAM UP FOR THEIR OWN ESSA PLAN REVIEWS: The nonprofit education groups Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners are teaming up to review state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Each state plan is already subject to a federal review, in which a team of educators and experts examine the plans to ensure they gel with the law. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will have the final say on approving the plans. But the Collaborative and Bellwether — in addition to a number of other education groups — are doing their own independent reviews, too. The unofficial third party reviews come as advocates anxiously await the level of scrutiny state plans will receive under the Trump administration and whether DeVos will take a backseat approach, as Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander has suggested.

Let’s take a moment to review the current situation.

In August of 2016, the Gates Foundation awarded over $8 million in grants to support states as they developed and implemented their ESSA plans -with the understanding that adoption of personalized learning was job one. Now, Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners – and other un-named education groups – get to conduct their own independent reviews of individual state ESSA plans BEFORE they’re submitted to the Department of Education for official review.

What part of this long con would inspire any individual – hopeful of maintaining any of their personal credibility – to boast that this process is an example of the local control?

Let’s take a look at Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners.

Here’s the mission and funders for Collaborative for Student Success. Yes, the Gates Foundation is on the list. Along with ExxonMobil and the Hewlett Foundation.

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Following the money for the Bellwether Education Partners was trickier. Per their website:

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Except when you look over the website, there’s no funders to be found. Then I did some Googling and found this blog post: Three Non-Profits Selling Out Public Education…in the name of “public education”. Guess who’s the first non-profit on the list? Bellwether. Go read the blog post. It’s all there: Bain & Company, The Mind Trust, McKinsey, TFA, and on, and on.

Why did Collaborative for Student Success and Bellwether Education Partners get to jump the line and give their final stamp to state plans before they’re submitted to the Department of Education?

I don’t have an answer, but it’s a question worth pondering.

What I do know is this: The Every Student Succeeds Act was a perfectly executed confidence game, promising everything, and costing us dearly.

Welcome to the ESSA dumpster fire. It’s gonna burn for a long, long, time.

-Carolyn Leith

Postscript: Here’s one interesting grant from the Gates Foundation to Bellwether Education Partners.

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