President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, Dec. 15, 2015. ESSA ends No Child Left Behind and its rigid and unfair federal formulas for labeling schools, and its failed system of one-size-fits-all interventions and punishments for struggling schools. States will now transition to a system of multiple indicators to identify schools and subgroups needing help, accompanied by greater state and local flexibility over how to effectively support those schools and subgroups, with input from stakeholders.
“The passage of ESSA is a victory for students and educators and I am thankful Congress took action. However, the real work lies ahead,” said Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. “CEA looks forward to working with our membership and other stakeholders and policy makers on the law’s implementation in our state. Just as CEA led the implementation and training efforts around Colorado’s educator effectiveness evaluation system, we will raise the voice of professional educators to deliver on ESSA’s promise to provide opportunity for all students.”
The Every Student Succeeds Act is the seventh reauthorization of the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first passed in 1965, and the first since 2002 when NCLB became law. This reauthorization has been years in the making and suffered through several false starts, but it picked up steam in 2015 as opposition to the rigid and punitive “test and punish” regimen imposed by NCLB intensified and several education groups, including the NEA, lobbied Congress to get the job done.
For years, CEA and NEA members waged a determined and challenging fight for a new ESEA reauthorization that would ensure educators have a voice in decision-making, create more opportunity and time for learning, and decouple testing from high-stakes decision-making. "This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Educators welcomed the end of No Child Left Behind and the beginning of a new era in public education in schools.”
What ESSA sets out to do is strike the right balance between the respective roles of the federal, state and local governments in formulating education policy. The consensus over the past few years was that NCLB was heavily tilted toward the federal side but for the wrong reason. The original ESEA’s emphasis on ensuring equity and opportunity was brushed aside while new rigid, punitive mandates dictated to states how students and schools should be evaluated. The Every Student Succeeds Act goes a long way in defanging NCLB’s grinding test and punish regime, lays a path for new flexible pillars of school accountability and reaffirms the original law’s vision that ZIP code shouldn’t determine the quality of a child’s education.