Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Passes House 359-64
On December 02, 2015, the Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) passed the House by a vote of 359-64.
All 64 Nay votes were Republican, with three Democrats and seven Republicans not voting.
ESSA is the long-overdue reauthorization of the Ele,entary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the latest version of which was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB).
Like NCLB, ESSA is a test-centered bill, and ESSA is clear in its requirement that a state receiving Title I funds tests at least 95 percent of all students in grades 3 through 8 and at least one grade in high school in English and math. (Science is a testing requirement, as well, but not as often as ELA and math.)
Unlike NCLB, ESSA does not dictate a state’s goal-setting terms for “annual yearly progress (AYP),” and it does not spell out a list of punitive consequences for states’ not achieving AYP. Nevertheless, I do not view ESSA as a happy marriage so much as a necessary divorce. ESSA is clear that states are expected to work the results of that at-least-95-percent-tested requirement into their state accountability systems– which on the face affects schools, and, yes, could still influence teachers’ being graded using student test scores.
If it passes the Senate, ESSA becomes immediately effective except in the case of the NCLB waivers. Those remain in effect until August 1, 2016. (The Senate vote is expected within the next week, and ESSA is expected to pass.)
Now is the time to register discontent with the language of ESSA as it puts states in the position to try to force parents to allow their children to participate in high-stakes testing. Yes, ESSA has language about reducing the amount of time students spend oh high-stakes testing. However, ESSA is a test-centered bill, including the expectation that test results will be part of state accountability systems; Title I is worth billions (and states will bow to those billions), and so, the stage is set for a child’s public school education to (continue to) be increasingly devoted to prep for high-stakes tests.
Teachers, parents, and local administrators need to push back against states, and states need to push back against a federal government enamored with standardized testing.
Yes, of late, the Obama administration has not pulled NCLB waivers and instituted punishments for states with large opt-out numbers. And yes, ESSA nullifies NCLB waivers. But the problem is that on its face, ESSA pushes for that 95-percent-test-taker-completion as a condition of Title I funding and leaves states at the mercy of the US secretary of education to not cut Title I funding in the face of parents choosing to refuse the tests.
It is up to us to register our discontent with being set up to yet again be at the mercy of another US secretary of education. All of this test obsession as proof indisputable of a quality education needs to go.
ESSA: A necessary divorce. Not a happy marriage.