The members of the KDP Public Policy Committee will publish a series of blog posts over the next few months that will examine the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), a law that outlines the federal government’s role in education. The purpose of the series is to educate KDP members about this important law and its impact on their work as educators. Each blog writer will focus on a different topic, explaining it in light of ESSA and describing how states are implementing the legislation. The writers will explore topics such as teacher evaluation, teacher professional development, school leadership, special education students, and homeless students.
An Overview of ESSA
President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law on December 10, 2015. Both Democrats and Republicans have praised the legislation because it gives states and school districts more control over education, refocuses student learning on information valued by parents and teachers, and supports disadvantaged and high-need students. The White House released a statement saying that ESSA “rejects the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits-all mandates on our schools, ensures that our education system will prepare every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers, and provides more children access to high-quality state preschool programs.”
Individual states spent 2016 soliciting input from constituents and drafting plans for implementing the law. The federal government will begin reviewing the states’ plans in March 2017 in anticipation of implementing the entire law during the 2017–2018 school year. Policy observers are unclear whether the incoming Trump administration will maintain this timeline.
The History of ESSA
ESSA is not a completely new piece of legislation. It is the latest reauthorized and amended version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which had been previously reauthorized and amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
ESSA traces its roots to the 1965 ESEA, the overarching law that first defined federal involvement in K–12 education and attempted to decrease the effects of poverty and provide resources to students in need. President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed ESEA into law because he believed that providing educational opportunities for all children should be the nation’s first goal. He and other advocates viewed ESEA as a civil rights law. ESSA adheres to the original goal outlined in ESEA to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.
Signed into law during the presidency of George W. Bush, NCLB attempted to identify students who were making adequate academic progress and those who needed additional support. Over time, however, ensuring a quality education for all students became too challenging for teachers and schools to guarantee in the face of the law’s requirements. Criticism was leveled specifically against the law’s unreasonable accountability measures and the federal government’s prescriptive requirements. In 2010, President Obama called for Congress to draft a bill that would address these issues and better prepare students for success in college and their future careers. ESSA was the result of these efforts.
Call to Action
The blogs written by the Public Policy Committee are intended to inform KDP members and invite them to act. You are encouraged to participate in a special discussion forum on KDP Global. By sharing your expertise and experiences, others can learn from you. In other words, your participation is a way to advocate for the teaching profession. Please answer this week’s questions:
- What do you already know about ESSA?
- What questions do you have about ESSA?
Dr. Nathan Bond is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University and Chair of the Kappa Delta Pi Public Policy Committee.