Will “Every Student Succeeds Act” Leave No Child Behind?

Like every other education policy-focused organization, we’ve been spending time analyzing and trying to understand what the long-overdue re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as “No Child Left Behind“, means for Massachusetts.

A lot has already been written about the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which was signed into law at a White House ceremony on December 10th.  Passing Congress with rare bipartisan support, ESSA has been received with cautious optimism by those on the left, such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association, and by those on the right, such as conservative Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute.

It is actually fascinating that the diminished role of the federal government in education, long a conservative objective, is hailed by MTA President Barbara Madeloni because the shift “to state control will allow us to intensify our organizing efforts to pass a three-year moratorium on high-stakes testing in Massachusetts.”

While the changes in federal/state responsibilities have garnered the most attention, there are a few other encouraging signs in ESSA.  First, there are provisions that could help shift over $2 billion in federal dollars to evidence-based efforts to improve education outcomes for our children.  (MBAE is a proud member of the Results for America coalition that urged Congress to adopt these measures.)   Second is increased flexibility for states to determine how to provide equitable opportunities for high quality education to all students.  As the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) points out, this gives states the opportunity to “shift to new, personalized learning models while maintaining the law’s fundamental commitment to equity for all students”.

Observers of all stripes agree that hundreds of provisions will have to be clarified at both the federal and state levels.  And, the business community must be deeply involved.  Employers will have to take a stand and raise their voice when high standards are threatened or efforts are made to weaken the gains Massachusetts has made over the past two decades.   If we are serious about closing skills gaps and ensuring that every one of our citizens can contribute to and benefit from our knowledge economy, employers will have to have a seat at the table and a strong voice insisting on aggressive timetables to meet goals for our youngest citizens to receive the education they need to be future ready.

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READ MORE  If you want to see what others are saying, take a look at:

Commonwealth  – for a good summary of the final legislative wrangling

Education Trust  – for an explanation about why the law’s reduction of federal involvement in education is not a retreat from educational justice for our most underserved and vulnerable students

U.S. Chamber of Commerce – stating that the business community will have to  “continue to push for accountability provisions that are clear-cut, easy to implement, and more heavily weighted on academic performance”

Alliance for Excellent Education – for everything else you might want to know through fact sheets, videos and other information

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