New act may replace No Child Left Behind

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New act may replace No Child Left Behind

8:08 p.m. PST December 7, 2015

After 14 years of No Child Left Behind, educators and policy makers are looking forward to less testing, more state and local control, and more resources for the students who need it most.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has passed the U.S. House, is expected to pass the Senate and be sent to the president, who has said he will sign it into law.

“Every Student Succeeds is a significant step to redressing the flaws of No Child Left Behind,” said Virginia Congressman Don Beyer in a recent report. “It improves critical education initiatives for our children, including preschool and education support for at-risk students.

“(It) also gives state and local governments more authority in setting their own high standards through less testing and more creativity in the classroom,” Beyer said.

Mary Kusler, director of government relations for the National Education Association, agreed, saying, “This puts children’s needs ahead of politics and ensures a zip code doesn’t determine a child’s education.”

Crystal Greene, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education, said state officials “are pleased that Congress has taken action and is now closer to approving a long-term, stable federal policy that gives states additional flexibility and encourages states and schools to innovate, while at the same time holding us accountable for results.”

According to the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions, among changes the act will bring are:

  • Reduce the stress placed on standardized testing and the time spent daily on testing preparedness, although federal required tests will continue in reading and math each year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12.
  • Help states improve low-performing schools by including federal grants to states and school districts.
  • Help states support teachers by providing resources to implement various activities to support teachers, principals and other educators.
  • End federal mandates on evaluations and allow states to develop and design new evaluation systems.
  • Require community-based needs assessment to better target funding.

“The increased flexibility for states provided in the Every Student Succeeds Act reflects a bipartisan national acknowledgement that states and local educators are best situated to determine how to improve our schools,” Greene said. “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is eight years overdue for reauthorization, and the Every Student Succeeds Act is a critical step forward for Oregon.”

Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry said this act swings the pendulum back toward state control of education.

But with that power, comes responsibility.

“As a state, we need to get it right,” Perry said.

From a state perspective, Greene said, the bill will allow Oregon to build on “home grown” systems.

For instance, Greene said, the bill sets parameters for a state’s accountability systems, but gives each state the flexibility to design a school accountability system that best meets the needs of students in the state.

Additionally, she said, the bill gives states the flexibility to work with local stakeholders to determine how educators should be evaluated and supported each year.

“Starting this winter and spring and extending into the coming school year, we will be bringing together stakeholders to help us develop our State Plan which will outline how this new bill will be rolled out here in Oregon,” Greene said.

Though no one can foresee how the new bill will impact the individual districts, schools, and students, those in support feel it is a vital step in the direction toward student success.

“This is a chance for our state to dig in and have more control,” Perry said. “We need to have the right conversations to implement those changes well.”

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

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