There has been some big news circling around education this past month. The Every
Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. The ESSA will
replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
At this point, it is too soon to pass any judgments on ESSA, but the new law seems promising.
Many are making speculations about this new law; however, for parents who are
not directly involved in politics, this is all very confusing. In order to
understand the ESSA, one must understand the NCLB and its components.
Understanding the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law on January 8, 2002.
NCLB increased the role that the federal government had in holding schools
accountable for students’ academic progress. This law requires all public schools
to take statewide standardized tests and report these scores in order to
receive public funding, which is called Title I. States are required to test
students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high
school in order to measure academic progress. States that did not follow this
standard risked losing federal Title I money.
Under NCLB, Title I money has certain stipulations. Schools that receive Title I funding
must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is judged through standardized
test scores (depending on the state, test scores had to improve by a certain
amount every year). If schools do not meet their AYP two years in a row,
certain actions would take place. An under-performing school must allow a
student to transfer to a better-performing school in its district, all while
paying for the cost of the student’s transportation. These schools must also
hold back 10% of their Title I money and allocate a certain amount of Title I
money to private tutoring. If a school consistently did not meet AYP, state governments could intervene,
which could include measures such as shutting down the school, turning them
into charter schools, or use another strategy they saw fit.
NCLB has been a very controversial law over the years. Opponents of this law argue that instead
of assisting under-performing school, the federal government punishes them.
Under-performing schools must spend their Title I money on certain programs of
which they do not have a choice. Another complaint is that NCLB places too much
emphasis on standardized tests. As a result, schools are spending too much time
“teaching to the test,” and students are spending too much time taking tests.
NCLB is also heavily underfunded for such goals, expecting to raise about $25
billion and raising only $14.5 in 2015.
NCLB did get some ideas right. President Obama said, “The goals of No Child Left Behind,
the predecessor of [Every Student Succeeds], were the right ones: High
standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap…But in practice, it
often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each
community. It led to too much testing.” Educational experts are hopeful that
this new law will accomplish the goals NCLB aimed to achieve. It seems to have
fixed some problems of NCLB, while keeping the same goals in mind.
What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?
ESSA will take action to make sure that every school and student performs well so
that every student has the chance to succeed. While maintaining accountability
and high standards, the ESSA aims to fix what NCLB failed to achieve.
ESSA will keep standardized testing, but it will allow more flexibility in
how and when schools administer these tests. States can choose to limit the
amount of time students spend taking tests, or even break up tests into shorter
pieces. This will allow for more teaching and classroom time during the school
year, something that many teachers desired.
ESSA will give more power back to the states. The AYP is no longer a threat, as it seemed too
“cookie-cutter” and not individualized enough. Instead states will decide on
accountability plans for schools. States will choose the performance goals for
students and how these goals will be measured, which will be approved by the
federal government. If a school is under-performing– which is now defined by
the bottom 5% of assessment scores, low graduation rates, and low performance
of subgroups– states will develop their own intervention systems.
New emphasis on different programs will be enacted through the ESSA. There will be more funding
on federal preschool programs, a larger focus on college and career
readiness standards, and support for innovative programs that are proven to
work. With all these new initiatives, ESSA aims to ensure the success of every
student from the beginning of the school career.
What does the Every Student Succeeds Act Mean for Students?
We hope this will mean more authentic classroom time and more funding to schools and programs that need the support, all while maintaining accountability and high standards.Educators are hopeful that this will transform education, which will be determined in the coming years.
What are your thoughts on ESSA? Do you think it will help more children succeed in school? Let us know in the comments.
Author: Becky Adams, English Program Coordinator at MathWizard, Inc.