Eight years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) went into effect, congress has passed a revision to the bill to allow states to reclaim control over much of their education policies. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law on December 10, will take full effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
How is it different?
- ESSA includes a new $250 million program earmarked for high-quality early childhood education programs as well as avoiding Title I Portability, which according to Martin and Sargrad, would have caused the poorest districts to lose more than $675 million while gaining the richest districts more than $440 million.
- States will now look at multiple measures of performance and success beyond test scores and graduation rates and begin to consider altruistic factors like student and teacher engagement, success in advanced coursework, attendance rates, school climate and safety, and social-emotional development of their students. These factors also serve as important indicators of educational equity – encompassing a more holistic approach to evaluating each school’s success.
- States are federally required to identify and take action in the bottom 5 percent of schools and schools graduating less than two-thirds of students, but how they do so is now entirely in the hands of the state. States are now not only responsible for setting their own interventions, but also for setting new solutions, overhauling the one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB.
By allowing local legislators and officials more flexibility and say in how the state’s education system will operate, this bill holds great potential to positively impact our earliest learners here in Minnesota. As we go into the new year, and a new legislative session, one thing is for sure; it will be as important as ever for educators and officials to remember the old adage, with great power, comes great responsibility.