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Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Passes House 359-64

December 2, 2015

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.

lesser evil


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published in June 2015.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. A+ work!

  2. kk, parent permalink

    Does it still make sense for people to do the NPE Action Alert letter? If so, will post to PTA letter at my kids’ school, but need to know by midnight Eastern time. (Newsletter published Friday.)

    • No. The text of ESSA is set. Once the Senate votes ESSA in and it becomes law, then activist groups could create a campaign to make the ESSA 95-percent requirement an issue, beginning with doing so on the state level and even pressing presidential candidates to publicly address it. And there is also the possibility of bringing the “states have a right to opt out but we require 95 percent testing participation” to the attention of federal court.

      • kk, parent permalink

        Thanks for your reply!

  3. leonie haimson permalink

    great metaphor, Mercedes!

  4. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you so much for the information Mercedes. I will share it and register my discontent with my elected representatives.

  5. sue alex permalink

    Corey Booker (D) NJ voted Nay. I had to point that out because I do not expect that of him, and I am proud of him.

  6. It was you who wouldn’t and still won’t tolerate the honest public strategy of demanding a moratorium on the NCLB testing mandate until a clean law was passed.

    Without arguing whether it is greater or lesser, it is very evil. You who demand we urgently pass a LAW to impose any evil at all on our children are working for the other side.

    Stop it in the senate. Please ask your senator to vote against this bill if it is forced to a vote within 60 days. Ask them to instead support a moratorium on the NCLB standardized testing mandates until a new ESEA renewal is discussed and passed.

    • Don’t tell me what I “won’t tolerate.” I never blasted you for your decisions about what to do with the ESEA reauth. Do what you like.

  7. bertisdowns permalink

    If high-stakes standardized “test obsession” was truly “proof indisputable of a quality education” then every private school in America would be signing up too. It isn’t; they aren’t.

  8. Louisiana can’t afford this testing mania – while the testing requirement may be perceived as foolproof, the cost can be significantly reduced by eliminating our STATE mandate for HIGH STAKES application. It is not mandatory and it’s my understanding that many states do not apply it. Our lawmakers need to have that spreadsheet in front of them.

    The fact still remains that the HIGH STAKES punitive application of these tests renders them invalid and unreliable for our current use in teacher eval, student progression and SPS. If BESE under White won’t yield to that our legislators might in the face of a legal challenge and with the leadership of our new Governor.

    Local school boards and admin may not have the balls to write opt out provisions into their Pupil Progression Plans but they are not required to include provisions that disallow opt outs as some have reportedly done. Parents MUST confront those school boards and superintendents who have maneuvered their local PPP committees, which include parents and public comment, into revising their PPPs which refuse opt outs and demand they be reversed. Parents must opt out of these tests. As long as customers are buying this product it will be produced.

    Teachers MUST take the initiative to speak out or they will be contributing to their own demise.

    Louisiana public education will be privatized at great cost to taxpayers with disastrous consequences AS LONG AS WE ALLOW it.

  9. Evil vs. Lesser Evil but the question is which is the lesser evil. The re-write opens public education up to Wall Street raiders through social investment bonds. It puts a lot of money into computer based education that seems designed to replace teachers with computers. It explicitly and with a lot of capital promotes the charter school industry and it maintains testing mania. The new ESEA might be the greater evil. In either case it is not a significant improvement. It should be stopped and re-worked.

  10. Passionate Teacher permalink

    In AR there are so many passionate candidates whom want to become teachers; however, the required assessment are extremely intensive and expensive. I hope AR decides on a less vigorous assessment so our State can acquire some great teachers!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  5. Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA) PASSES SENATE. ESSA is now law. | deutsch29
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