Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces NCLB

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA bill replaces the 14-year-old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. This action came with bi-partisan support from both the House and the Senate, with both voting over 80 percent in support of this new legislation.

Why is this important? ESSA now serves more as a safety net rather than a punitive bill and federal over-reach. Much of the federal role has been shifted to a state responsibility. This is a big win for students and the schools in Iowa, and across the nation. 

Some of the major summary points include:

·      Reauthorizes ESEA, for four years;

·      States may choose challenging academic standards without interference from the federal government;

·      States determine the accountability model:

  • Must use measures of student achievement as 51 percent of weighting; and
  • May use other measures;

·      States must identify and take action on the lowest five percent of schools at least once every three years;

·      States must still identify struggling sub-groups;

·      Testing:

  • Test students in grades 3-8 and once in high school for reading and math;
  • Test in science three times between grades 3-12;
  • 95 percent participation rate required;
  • States may define their own testing opt-out laws;
  • ACT or SAT may be used at the high school level; and
  • one percent cap on alternative assessment.

·      Title I funds go from four percent to seven percent for school improvement;

·      Title II funds adjusted and sent to states with higher number of students in poverty; and 

·      Title XI, state assessment dollars, have been moved under Title I.

What is not in the bill that was there before?

·      AYP is gone as we know it, and the AMOs;

·      Prescribed turn-around models are eliminated;

·      Highly qualified teachers are not required;

·      SES and school choice are not in the bill;

·      Specific labels for performance of schools are not required (SINA, DINA);

·      School improvement grants are not there;

·      Mandates on teacher evaluation connected to student test scores; and

·      Title I portability is not required.

Iowa, like every state in the nation, now has the opportunity to be responsible for educating our own children again. This shift from federal accountability to state accountability is a massive change in the law. This is appropriate, since there is no formal constitutional law that says the federal government should have control of education. 

Accountability was a state issue before NCLB, and now it is back in the hands of the state. The punitive nature of NCLB is gone. It will be the responsibility of each state to now provide support for our struggling schools and not just close them down. The over-testing of students has been given a reality check and now, hopefully, will be used appropriately instead of one test being a high-stakes assessment. 

There is a lot of work to be done, and as one Washington politician stated, “The state dog has caught the federal cart. Now what are they going to do?” 

It is our responsibility, as a statewide system, to make sure the cart heads in the right direction.

As always, be sure to check out our blogs, which we hope will inform, inspire and guide your daily work:

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Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator