Thursday, December 10, 2015

President signs Every Student Succeeds Act

President Barack Obama has signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization, also known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

As noted in IASB’s Federal Legislative Report, the reauthorization is a victory for local governance in public education.

“The legislation addresses potential federal overreach through non-regulatory means,” said Susan Hilton, an IASB Director/Governmental Relations. “It requires local stakeholder input at the federal level prior to issuing such guidance.”

The U.S. Senate December 9 approval followed the U.S. House of Representatives vote on December 2.

The reauthorized ESEA replaces previous ESEA, familiarly known as “No Child Left Behind.” The old and new versions are different in significant ways, not the least of which is the diminishment of federal oversight of education and broader discretion for local governing bodies.

Testing is not going away. ESSA will require testing in reading and math in grades 3-8, and again in high school. Although standardized tests will still be part of accountability, under ESSA each state or district can — actually must — develop its own accountability model, incorporating factors of local importance such as post-secondary readiness, school climate, school safety, and teacher engagement. Accountability will continue to be measured for subgroups, but school districts can develop interventions, based on local needs, when a subgroup is identified as underperforming.

Other key factors to ESSA include specific options for English language learners, support for at-risk populations, and continued investment in early childhood education. Teachers will no longer be assessed only through student outcomes. A proposal to allow Title I portability was excluded — federal funds will stay with the school district, not the student.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has made ESSA information available, including a timeline of implementation. In fact, the NSBA helped craft the language in the bill that dials back federal oversight and returns local governance.