Meet NC’s New ESSA Overlord

The News and Observer is reporting on a ‘consultant’ who will ‘oversee’ ESSA implementation in the state of North Carolina.

One has to ask, is this going on in other state as well? Is this our ESSA Overlord?


A North Carolina businessman and former teacher is on a committee selected by the U.S. Department of Education that’s tasked with crafting testing guidelines for public schools under the new law that’s replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.

Kenneth Bowen, 36, of Laurinburg, will serve later this month on the 24-member committee, formed after President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The legislation earned overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate last year as lawmakers looked to scale back the federal government’s involvement with classroom standards, yearly tests for students and K-12 mandates for states.

So, a ‘consultant’ to oversee the process?  Is this the ‘local control’ we were promised?
Well, it’s probably the specific type ‘local control’ Sen. Lamar Alexander promised.

Go read the white paper recently published by Mary Byrne and Jane Robbins.  It is an eye-popping account of Lamar Alexander’s history in education with a focus on the recent passage of ESSA.

Excerpt, emphasis added is mine:

Alexander’s mission to pass a reauthorization of the failed No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) began the day after his mid-term election in 2014,  and ended approximately 13 months later. On November 18, 2015 after a 1 ½-hour conference committee meeting, Alexander announced that the full text of the conference report on S1177 would not be available until November 30, 2015 and the House would be voting on the report only two days later at the latest.  He knew when newly sworn in Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would schedule the bill – he’d arranged that, too. Alexander told Politico, “They’d bring it to the House floor for a vote soon, when Ryan was still new to the speakership and the bill could arguably pass off as part of Boehner’s legacy,”  all the while maintaining regular order.  Old-fashioned legislating at its finest – take credit if all goes well; blame the guy who isn’t around to defend himself if it flops. Alexander later admitted, “ESSA isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on unless it’s implemented right, . . . The federal government will take these powers right back.”
Take these powers back?
The Federal Government never gave them up, they just buried them in bill over 1,000 pages long.

Flashforward to the news about NC getting it’s very own ESSA Consultant. Is this consultant here to make sure it ESSA “implemented right” per Lamar Alexander?  That’s a good bet.

What about the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education, isn’t this their job?  Or is the state-wide listening tour on ESSA just for show?

The News and Observer article also has these two key tidbits:

Bowen prefers accountability measures that use academic tests to show a student’s growth throughout the school year – not a system that measures whether teachers can bring all students up to one benchmark.

Bowen was tapped to serve on the Department of Education’s committee thanks to his role as a national consultant for Office Depot’s education services program. Office Depot contracts with school districts to sell supplies.
So, from these pieces it looks like Bowen is perhaps in favor of formative testing, not summative. That’s a positive.
I’d be interested to see what the selection process involved here if his role at Office Depot was a major pull?