Here at PCTELA, we are intentional about providing relevant information, resources, and inspiration for educators as they pour into the lives of students in their classrooms. We are committed to sharing not only innovative teaching methods and literacy resources, but also to connecting our membership to what is going on in the field of education. Legislation modifying the educational practices we live by is constantly occurring while new legislation is introduced regularly on the local, state, and national levels. New laws and regulations require us to expand our role as educators to include advocacy for our students and our profession. With this being said, PCTELA will be featuring a monthly blog post to highlight trending issues related to teacher advocacy.
This month’s advocacy spotlight is on the Every Student Succeeds Act.
A Brief Overview
After years of planning and consideration, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was a strongly supported bipartisan law signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. The ESSA overturned the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), reauthorizing the longstanding Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. ESEA was passed as a civil rights law that provided educational funding to states to ensure that every student had access to a quality education.
The primary goal of NCLB, signed into law in 2002, was to make every student proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or physical disability. Each year, schools had to provide proof of adequate yearly progress via standardized testing scores. If all students, despite demographic differences, did not meet target test scores, schools were sanctioned by the federal government. Towards the end of this act, Obama granted waivers from the penalties of NCLB to states that promised to adopt new academic standards, most frequently Common Core Standards.
Dedicated to improving upon the original provisions of ESEA, the Obama administration enacted the ESSA to provide flexibility for states from the prescriptive measures of NCLB and to refocus the nation’s attention on adequately preparing students for college and career. While states must still be committed to reporting achievement gaps, school districts now have more freedom in how they address and remedy these gaps in student achievement. This shift of control from the federal to the state governments reversed the trend of federal expansion of power in educational policy for the first time since the 1980s.
Major Educational Policy Modifications made by ESSA
- States are still required to test students on math and English every year in the third through eighth grades and once in high school and on science once in elementary, middle, and high schools. However, states may choose when they will administer these tests and can shape the format of the assessments.
- States must still report the test results, breaking out scores by demographic groups.
- In addition to standardized test scores, other methods may be used to measure student achievement. All of these measurements will be used to consider progress towards state-determined goals.
- The U.S. Dept. of Education must stay neutral regarding state adoption of Common Core Standards. States are allowed, but not required, to adopt Common Core Standards.
- It is at the states’ discretion to determine accountability goals for progress in student achievement, but they must submit these plans to the U.S. Dept. of Education for approval.
- ESSA is very specific on what situations require intervention. Schools that require intervention are those which:
- Score at the bottom 5% of assessment scores for that state
- Graduate less than 67% of students
- Demographic subgroups underperform consistently
- ESSA is NOT specific on what constitutes intervention. Instead of providing all schools with the same prescribed list of penalties for failure to meet yearly progress goals, the state governments will be responsible to determine what intervention will look like.
- ESSA expands access to preschool by providing $250 million in annual funding towards early childhood education
For more on the comparison of NCLB and ESSA, click here.
The ESSA will be in effect starting in the 2016-2017 school year. It is up to educators who are in the classroom on a daily basis to advocate for equitable and beneficial application of ESSA in their perspective states. To discuss your opinions on the implications of ESSA (ie: how state funds should be directed, what accountability plans should look like, what alternative methods can be used to measure student achievement), you may utilize the following communication information provided by NCTE:
- Visit your legislators in their home offices in your district or in Washington D.C.
- Contact elected officials by phone or by mail
- Speak out to the media and general public
If you are interested in staying up to date with changes in national education legislation, you can sign up for email updates from the U.S. Dept. of Education here.
President Obama’s Remarks on the Transition from NCLB to ESSA
“The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap. Making sure that every child was learning, not just some. But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see. And that’s okay — sometimes reform efforts require you try something, it doesn’t work, you learn some lessons, and you make modifications.”
To read the rest of Obama’s speech during the signing of ESSA, click here.
Written by: Christie Stelljes