No Child Left Behind: LEFT BEHIND
As of December 10, 2015, the United States is leaving NCLB behind! President Obama has signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. So what does this mean for students and teachers?
Here are the basics of the new national education legislation...
Goals of ESSA: To strike the right balance between the roles of the federal, state and local governments in formulating education policy. NCLB was heavily tilted toward the federal side. There will be fewer punitive mandates dictated to states on how students and schools should be evaluated. Every Student Succeeds Act allows more flexibility regarding school accountability and will focus on opportunity gaps, less high-stakes tests, and greater educator voice!
Opportunity Gaps in Focus For the first time, state-designed accountability systems must include at least one indicator of school success or student support to determine where holes should be filled. Schools will be assessed on non-academic factors including high school graduation rates and student and school supports, such as access to higher level coursework, art, music, and counselors.
Less High Stakes ESSA will still require annual tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school. However, AYP is history! For years, this provision dangled threats of punitive measures over schools if they didn’t meet federally mandated test-based measures of accountability. ESSA provides funding for states to audit and streamline assessment systems, eliminate redundant and inefficient assessments and improve them. The new law also creates a pilot program for state-designed assessment systems that are guided by teaching and learning, rather than accountability. And where states allow, ESSA maintains the right of parents to opt their children out of statewide academic assessments and allows states to limit the amount of time students spend taking annual tests.
Greater Educator Voice Over the past decade, educators’ expertise has been repressed by NCLB’s federal mandates. ESSA preserves the federal role in protecting the most vulnerable students while recognizing that the top-down approach doesn’t work for everything. The new law prohibits the federal government from mandating teacher evaluations or defining an “effective” teacher and calls for many decisions for local schools and states to be determined by collaboration among educators, parents and other community members.
So What's Next?
The passage of the ESSA is BIG, but the work in many ways is just beginning. Because the new law does away with so many federal mandates on everything from assessment, accountability, and evaluation, state legislatures will be playing a decisive role in determining how ESSA is implemented. It’s now up to the states to work with local stakeholders and districts to design, for example, new and better assessments and accountability systems and follow-through on identifying and filling opportunity gaps.
There is hope in the field of education, so for now, REJOICE! 'Tis the season ;)
“Senate Overwhelmingly Passes New National Education Legislation.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.
“With Passage Of Every Student Succeeds Act, Life After NCLB Begins - NEA Today.” NEA Today. N.p., Sep. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.