Improving the national tapestry for equal access to education for all, President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has now been implemented. Making many positive changes to how education is funded, power structures organized, data managed, and the needs of struggling schools addressed, ESSA has the potential to greatly improve the performance of America’s youth. Educators are hopeful for the first time in years that their first hand knowledge may be put to use to help their students.
The devastating effects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act has been reassessed and replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which has now begun implementation in America’s schools. This is part of President Obama’s plan to improve education through focused funding on at risk schools. ESSA addresses some of the most stifling aspects of NCLB, such as:
While this system was detrimental to all students, it was especially damaging for at risk minority students who did not have access to the resources of average students. Understanding how limiting and irrational NCLB’s practices were, President Obama commented on the need for change,
Learning is about so much more than just filling in the right bubble. So we’re going to work with states, school districts, teachers, and parents to make sure that we’re not obsessing about testing, to make sure that our kids are enjoying learning that our teachers are able to operate with creativity, to make sure we are preparing our kids for a lifetime of success. (Aft.org)
As seen in the chart below, ESSA addresses how standardization limited access to learning:
Standardization had rippling effects of limitation, punishing teachers and students alike for not performing. One result of this is the practice of teachers padding student’s grades to keep their own job. Such conflicts of interest must be removed from education if students are going to be held accountable to their responsibility in learning. As such, ESSA:
Besides ending the most strangling aspects of standardization, ESSA empowers schools to make the changes they see fit in their own education context. No one is more knowledgeable than the on-site educators as to what their school’s needs. In the past NCLB limited their input as well as their freedoms to implement the obviously needed changes, and as a result performance has plummeted. In this way ESSA gives new hope that, this is an opportunity for states to reshape their education systems. It will not happen overnight, but without federal prescriptions on exactly what a without federal prescriptions on exactly what accountability, interventions for struggling schools notability, interventions for struggling schools, and teacher evaluation must look like, there is a path forward for states to reset these systems. (Aft.org)
However, there is a new aspect of accountability which has moved from the federal to the state level with ESSA. Now, “states are accountable for focusing resources on low-performing schools and traditionally underserved students who consistently demonstrate low academic performance” (Alliance for Excellent Education). This will go a long way towards focusing the issue of low performance accountability since schools will not be able to claim federal limitations as an excuse. These changes will free up schools to implement their own ideas:
In keeping with the National Education Association’s Priority Schools Initiative, ESSA supports targeted improvement with the aim of improving the entire quality of life of low performing schools. This criteria lies at “A school with a student subgroup performing at the level of the lowest-performing 5 percent of all Title I–receiving schools, based on the state accountability system, must receive targeted support” (Alliance for Excellent Education). Even if the school has difficulty doing this they will not be left on their own but identified for federal support.
President Obama understood that the entire structure of NCLB inhibited improvement, and he worked with community organizers to accomplish ESSA in ways that represented the needed changes. One such collaborator, AFT President Randi Weingarten commented, “Our work is only beginning, and our members are ready to roll up their sleeves at the state level, partner with community, and send the message that the policies of No Child Left Behind, waivers and Race to the Top should be abandoned, not replicated” (Aft.org). Thus, the way testing and data management in education have been used has been changed. As the chart below shows, no longer is data reporting to be based on simple statistics, but rather a full contextual understanding of the demographics and how they may influence performance (The Leadership Conference Education Fund). ESSA is not looking for easy answers, but the right answers on how to help children progress.
As such accountability systems will be structured so that discrimination and will be hard pressed to find a foot hold. State-developed programs for accountability must include:
These changes have educators excited to implement new solutions which will immediately ease some of the strain of attempting to navigate the perils of standardization.
President Obama has made many legislative strides to help improve the lives for minority children, which in the larger context is all children. His Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) erases the most frustrating and inane aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that has so crippled the American education system. The changes made by ESSA have the potential to increase quality of learning, school culture, and improve the ethical foundation on which millions of youths are prepared to engage in culture with.
1: Chart retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/policy/ESEA_NCLB_ComparisonChart_2015.pdf
2: Chart retrieved from: http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/education/ESSA-Data-Fact-Sheet.pdf
Alliance for Excellent Education. “Every Student Succeeds Act Primer: Accountability.” All4ed.org, Jan. 2016. Retrieved from: http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/ESSAPrimer-Accountability2.pdf
Aft.org. “Every Student Succeeds Act. FAQs” Aft.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/essa_faq.pdf
Aft.org. “The Every Student Succeeds Act.” Aft.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/essa_ppt_121115.pdf
Aft.org. “How Will the new ESEA/ESSA Affect Schools in Your State?” aft.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/how_will_esea_essa_affect_schools_in_your_state_113015.pdf
The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “Data Provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act.” Civilrightsdocs.info, 2016. Retrieved from: http://civilrightsdocs.info/pdf/education/ESSA-Data-Fact-Sheet.pdf