In December a new and very important law was signed by President Obama called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which puts to rest the ineffective NCLB. It is one of the very few pieces of federal legislation our Congress could agree on. Since that time states have been holding meetings with stakeholders as part of its engagement strategy to create their ESSA Consolidated State Plans that best represent what is good for school children and submit them for federal approval by March 2017. Idaho’s ESSA State Plan is scheduled to take effect in the 2017-2018 school year.
ESSA is an educational reform we can get behind, which says it must be led, developed and implemented by educators. For Idaho and for Blaine County schools, ESSA will require high standards (college and career ready) and assessment in English language arts, math, and science; annual assessments of ELA and math in grades 3-8 and one in high school, but districts can decide to use the SAT, ACT, or Compass tests instead of the SBAC (state assessment); and a science assessment in each grade span (3-5, 6-9, 10-12). These tests must be aligned to the state’s challenging academic standards. In addition, alternate formats of assessments for students with cognitive disabilities can be provided, such as portfolio-based or performance-based assessments. The requirements for 100 percent proficiency and adequate yearly progress have been eliminated, and no single test will determine if a school is failing because there will be multiple indicators of accountability, including academic achievement, graduation rate, academic progress, progress in achieving English language proficiency, even individual student growth, and indicators of school quality and student success (such as student engagement, educator engagement, student access to and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety, or any other valid state-chosen indicator). Further, educator evaluations based on student test scores have also been eliminated, as ESSA enables states to create their own evaluation systems.
With ESSA our district has a unique opportunity to improve student achievement. But educators will need time and support for their collaboration to bring this about. This reform will not punish efforts to improve schools. The flexibility of the Every Student Succeeds Act can provide each school district the opportunity to ensure high levels of learning for all students And your Blaine County teachers will step up to be ready to help students learn at higher levels to create the schools every student deserves.
For more information about ESSA check out this video from Education Week: