ESSA – Will it finally reform education?
The new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, has been a long time coming. In 1983, “A Nation At Risk” was released citing ineffectiveness and overall decline of our nation’s public school system. The report prompted extensive spending of both public and private funds to rectify the situation. A series of federal laws were also enacted to improve education, which lead to the No Child Left Behind Act being adopted in 2001. Despite all the changes made since the early 1980s, test scores continue to decline nationally.
The Every Student Succeeds Act will continue to test students, however that testing will no longer be such a primary focus for administrators and educators. The federal government will allow states and school boards to make decisions locally regarding education at the district level. The idea is to remove pressure and stress schools were shouldering during the height of No Child Left Behind with excessive standardized testing.
Big hopes for ESSA
Many are hopeful that the new act will be a welcome change and allow our public school system to flourish. On the other hand, some fear the lack of accountability may be a setback in terms of tracking trends and addressing problems proactively. Columnist Michael Gerson tells the Huffington Post, “Before No Child Left Behind, only 29 states had real accountability systems; 11 states did not disaggregate by race at all; only 22 states reported graduation rates by high school.”
With intense budget constraints happening across the country, even less spending on education will likely occur. The gap in achievement between minorities and whites may continue to grow, with wealthier school systems doing well, and less affluent areas declining. The good news is there is a trend occurring in education that involves new teaching techniques and partnerships with businesses that help equip students with practical workforce related skills. The decreased federal role in education may be counterbalanced by improvement at the local and state level, with help from the private sector.