The new federal education law – known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week. The law, which replaces the deeply flawed No Child Left Behind law (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), reflects the National Education Association’s core principles:
- Reducing the amount of standardized testing in schools and decoupling high-stakes decision making and statewide standardized tests.
- Ensuring educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state and local levels.
- The inclusion of student and school supports in state accountability plans to create an opportunity ‘dashboard’.
The Every Student Succeeds Act returns decision-making for our nation’s education back where it belongs – in the hands of local educators, parents and communities – while keeping the focus on students most in need. What does that mean to you? If you’re tired of being told what and how to teach, you’ll need to be part of the solution. With passage of Every Student Succeeds will come state-specific battles over teacher evaluations, the future of high-stakes testing and dozens of other lingering education issues.
Restrictions on the U.S. Secretary of Education’s authority exist throughout the bill and are focused on prohibiting the secretary from dictating specific mandates. These include mandates on: standards and assessments, elements of the accountability plans, parameters of the accountability system, additional data collection, exit requirements, teacher evaluation, and the definition of teacher effectiveness.
We as educators and union members have to assert ourselves into the conversation at every level. For instance, states are required to submit their plans for federal grants, developed with “meaningful consultation” with teachers and paraprofessionals. On the local school scene, local unions will need to know the law and begin to organize our members for the best student outcomes in areas such as developing assessments that allow teachers to interpret and address specific needs of students.
The opportunity is ripe to return autonomy to teaching, and along with it the joy of learning for our students.
The U.S. House of Representatives today approved S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan and bicameral bill to reauthorize the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate is expected to take up ESSA next week.