Opportunities and the (one big) risk of ESSA

The new law presents a lot of good opportunities and poses a risk for education. ESSA explained.

We’ve now well established a few things about the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. States and local districts now have more control over things like standards, school ratings and testing time. (Good). The law still has holes in it that low-income and special education students could fall through, just like No Child Left Behind. (Bad).

We came across an article by the Education Counsel about the opportunities and a big potential risk that is presented by ESSA.

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  1. Learning Systems: With state and local districts creating these college and career ready systems there will have to be a large shift in learning, teaching and support styles. States will need to build evidence-based learning systems that push past old paradigms and represent true innovation. Systems will also need to be constructed to include scheduled reviews and continuous iteration. Promoting this type of environment can set educators free to be creative and when people are able to invent and try new things that is when real change can happen!
  2. State and local innovation: Why we’re so excited about power shifting back to the states and local districts is the possibility for great innovation. (We’ve brought this up before.) Obviously, there will be limits as to what educators will be able to do but they now have more flexibility to create systems that will support college and career ready experiences for all of their students. This feels like a great benefit to both teachers and students. Teachers aren’t boxed in by federal standards that aren’t applicable to their location and students are well armed and equipped to enter college and the workforce.
  3. The Federal Government: Even though a lot of power has shifted back to the states, Washington still has a role to play. It’s most important role, arguably, will be to set the law’s priorities. Which parts of ESSA take priority over others and how much of the law can actually be put into action before the administration leaves in a little over 7 months from now. If this is done correctly, it could mean a much smoother transition when ESSA takes effect in the 2017-18 school year. It could also mean seeing results quicker which would be outstanding.

ESSA Explained

The (one big) risk

  1. Lack of equity. Maybe: The Education Council does echo other voices in saying that because of the shift from federal to state control, some states/districts that might not have the ability, time, willpower and/or money to continuously improve and will fall backwards. In turn this will allow their students to be lagging behind as other students forge ahead. The article’s author, Scott Palmer, does give reason for hope stating, “Perhaps the biggest bet in ESSA is that transparency of data will empower stakeholders in all places to ensure that we move forward and not backward from the “floor” of NCLB.”

To summarize ESSA gives states the opportunity to take the reins of their education and to create an experience for their students that is both innovative and practical.

The federal government, with a reduced role, has the ability to prioritize the right objectives of ESSA and ensure a smooth and effective transition in 2017-18.

The risk posed is a real one and should not be accepted if it is realized. All students should have access to quality education that prepares them for careers and higher education. States and local governments should relentlessly devote themselves to ensuring that no student anywhere falls through the cracks in this new education frontier.

Get a more in depth understanding of ESSA

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