On December 10, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). GSI has advocated for support of the reauthorization of the ESSA and we have continued to keep a close eye on progress of reauthorization efforts. For the first time in decades we are on a path toward confronting the inequalities the No Child Left Behind Act brought to our country’s students. ESSA is vital to all of our students and we applaud our delegation for the passage of this Act.
There is a universal consensus that the previous reauthorization of ESEA, No Child Left Behind Act, has not adequately measured a student’s educational progress. This bill rewrites the current one-size-fits-all federal accountability system and shifts the responsibility to the local and state level. Transferring the control from the federal government will improve student achievement as states have a more comprehensive capacity to identify what needs to be done to support their struggling schools. States will present a proposal outlining their accountability systems to the Secretary of Education, who is only authorized to establish that the plan adheres to the law. This new State-designed framework includes heavy federal guardrails that prohibit the US Secretary of Education from directly interfering with state initiatives. It also requires the state to increase student learning in the lowest performing 5% of their regions schools or any group of students who are continually underperforming. This ensures that every student is accounted for.
Sarah Bolton, Education Policy Director for Senator Patty Murray visited our community last week to provide an opportunity for discussion around the new Act. ESSA strengthens state and local responsibility for improvement of low performing schools, opens an avenue to align student assessment with testing that is already taking place such as ACT or SAT, provides federal funding to states for early childhood education and appropriate dollars for STEM (science technology engineering and math) for students, teacher training and community based organizations. The Department of Education will work on the implementation of ESSA in the next year. We expect 2016-2017 to be a year of guidance and regulation formation, with full implementation taking place in 2017-2018. For now, ESSA passes to the Appropriations Committee to define and refine the allocations to the particular pieces of the legislation.
The Senate and House overwhelmingly supported ESSA with a 85-12 vote in the Senate and 359-69 in the House. GSI recognizes and thanks our federal delegation for their support:
• Senator Patty Murray (D)
• Senator Maria Cantwell (D)
• Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (5th District – R)
• Representative Dan Newhouse (4th District – R)
• Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (3rd District – R)
• Representative David Reichert (8th District – R)
• Representative Denny Heck (10th District – D)
• Representative Suzan DelBene (1st District – D)
• Representative Rick Larsen (2nd District – D)
• Representative Adam Smith (9th District – D)
• Representative Jim McDermott (7th District – D)
• Representative Derek Kilmer (6th District – D)