Saturday, December 12, 2015

Thoughts on Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

So what's changed from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind) to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?  Without question, this is much more than a change in name.  With the signing of the Act by the President last week, ESSA sets a different tone for accountability in our schools.

As I scanned the wealth of information published by a very diverse group of sources, I found one summary, in particular, to be a very good read.  As a former school board trustee, I am privileged to have access to information published by the Governmental Affairs arm of the Texas Association of School Boards.  This week's update on issues relating to public education in the State of Texas included an excellent summary of ESSA.  

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the Act is that the federal government will play a lesser role in decisions made at the state and local level.  States and local districts will have much more discretion when it comes to  accountability and interventions. One specific statement in this summary, noting that the authority of the Secretary of Education is limited, can only be positive for students in Texas.
It's important that trustees, and for that matter all education advocates, parents and other stakeholders, become familiar with ESSA and how it will impact the learning opportunities of our children.  Because the Act was only authorized for four years, giving the next administration the opportunity to put their stamp on how this evolves, we all must remain diligent in pursuit of efforts to ensure that the needs of the students are the top priority.  

As a final comment, note the voting summary of the Texas House delegation.  Take time to meet with your legislators, especially if they cast a NO vote, to understand their position and provide input on the continued importance of a positive focus on public education.

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