Every Student Succeeds Act Hailed As An ‘Improvement’

Despite a few concerns by conservative and civil rights groups, No Child Left Behind’s successor has been widely celebrated by education associations that advocate for greater flexibility when measuring student achievement.

President Barack Obama signed The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law last week, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind (NCLB). International Association for K-12 Online Learning Vice President for Federal and State Policy Maria Worthen described the law to Associations Now as one that “better aligns the federal policy on assessment and accountability to what we are seeing in the field.” She also said ESSA shifts education toward more student-centered competency learning.

While associations predominantly agree NCLB steered the American education system in the wrong direction, not all agree ESSA is much better. Some conservative groups, like the Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Action for America, argue the law allows too much federal involvement in education. On the other end of the spectrum, some civil rights and education associations have expressed concern that a lack of federal oversight spells trouble for minority students and those with disabilities.

“While we recognize the need to replace the most recent iteration of ESEAㅡthe No Child Left Behind Actㅡand its punitive sanctions … we remain concerned about several of the ESSA’s provisionsㅡnamely the unnecessary restrictions it places on the federal oversight role in education,” said the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Legal Defense Fund.

While states are provided a lot more flexibility in how they design their accountability systems, equity is still an essential goal of ESSA, Worthen said. ESSA may “not the bill we would have written,” NAACP’s LDF said in a joint statement with 36 other civil rights and education groups, but “we believe this law can fulfill its purpose as stated in Title I, to ‘provide all children a significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education and to close educational achievement gaps.’”.

“Any bill that makes it to this point is the result of compromise,” Worthen said. “You’re gonna get some things you love and some things you don’t love, but overall it’s absolutely an improvement over No Child Left Behind.”

Despite concerns raised, ESSA has also been championed by several education associations, including the American Library Association, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.

“Overall this new law represents a shift from a narrow view of what student achievement looks like and provides greater flexibility around student assessment,” Worthen said.

National Association of State Boards of Education Executive Director Kristen Amundson said her group stands “ready to redouble their support for America’s students and teachers” by “leveraging the ESSA’s revamped accountability, assessment, and school improvement provisions to better identify persistently low-performing schools and tailor effective interventions to improve them.”


Katie Rucke

By Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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