At the end of December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, effectively sweeping away NCLB (No Child Left Behind). This bipartisan measure reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the country’s oldest national education law, which is dedicated to providing equal opportunity to all students. The new bill made long-needed significant changes to federal education policy. This was a breath of fresh air for many educators, as it was clear that the goals of NCLB were only attainable in a utopian society.
Here are some highlights from ESSA:
- One thing that changed with the ESSA was how teacher performance is evaluated. States can now individually appraise how well its teachers are doing performance wise. This means no more federal meddling on issues of teacher quality.
- Another alteration under the new law will allow states “to come up with their own way to determine the quality of their local schools.” This means that test scores are no longer the sole deciding factor for school performance. I think this is a good idea, as states are better equipped to assess the performance of their K-12 institutions. The federal government tried to do it their own way and failed miserably. They just underestimated the complexity of the task.
- ESSA lists music as a component of a well-rounded education and gives it more support than previous policies when it comes to access and funding. The law also means federal grant funding is opened up for states and local school districts to support music education programs and further train music teachers.
- The law also scores a win for education equity by reauthorizing critical protections of vulnerable and marginalized populations. It also furthers education equity by supporting and growing local innovations—including evidence-based programs and interventions developed by local organizations.
- ESSA continues the countries investment into early childhood education by increasing access to quality preschool.