February 26, 2016

How the Every Student Succeeds Act Impacts the Classroom Teacher

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This bipartisan measure builds on key areas of progress in recent years, made possible by the efforts of educators, communities, parents and students across the country. But how does this new law differ from the No Child Left Behind Law and more importantly, what does it mean and how does it impact you, the classroom teacher? Below are the top 10 questions we have heard from teachers about the ESSA and how this new law may impact you.

Information referenced from American Federation of Teachers (www.aft.org)

Q. What does the ESSA mean for a classroom teacher?

A. ESSA will end the obsession with testing in schools. The provisions of ESSA will provide at the state and local levels, the opportunity to create systems which:

  • Factors such as resources, working conditions and teacher voice must be considered
  • Teacher evaluation will be used to grow and strengthen the profession, not sort and punish
  • Assessments will be used to help improve schools and inform instruction, not arbitrarily measure them
  • Reasonable goals and objectives can be collaboratively established that align with the needs of students.

Q. What happens at the state level?

A. Under the new framework, the states will take the lead on issues of accountability, resources, interventions and teacher evaluation systems. If applied correctly, ESSA has the potential to give teachers the latitude to meet the needs of kids, rather than simply focus on tests.

Q. What are the testing requirements in ESSA?

A. Requirements are the same as under NCLB, but sanctions and consequences are very different and greatly diminished. States are required to test students in reading or language arts & math annual in grades 3-8 and once in grades 10-12, and in science once in each of the following grade spans: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.

Q. What does ESSA do to lessen testing requirements?

A. The new law allows for some flexibility and provisions to improve testing policies.

Examples include:

  • While assessments for elementary schools must be the same for all public school students statewide States may also choose to offer a nationally recognized local assessments at the high school level (SAT or ACT or example) as long as assessments are reliable, valid and comparable.
  • States and school districts can use funds to conduct audits of state and local assessment systems to eliminate unnecessary tests and improve assessments.
  • States can develop and implement innovative assessments through a seven-state pilot program.
  • States can set a target limit on the aggregate amount of time that students spend taking assessments for each grade.

Q. How will accountability differ and is there still adequate yearly progress (AYP)?

A. States will now be responsible for establishing their own accountability systems that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. Plans will be peer-reviewed and states can have a hearing if their plan is turned down. There is no longer AYP, instead states will set their own goals. State-developed accountability systems must include each of these indicators:

  • Proficiency in reading & math;
  • Graduation rates for high schools;
  • English language proficiency;
  • For elementary and middle schools, student growth or another indicator that is reliable and statewide and;
  • At least one other indicator of school quality or success, such as measures of safety, student engagement or educator engagement.

Q. Are parents allowed to opt their students out of assessments?

A. Parents can opt their students out of required assessments for any reason. School districts are required to notify parents of the state’s testing policies and must provide parents information regarding student participation in mandated assessments and the parents’ right to opt their children out of the tests.

There will be less pressure however, as states will determine what weight they give student performance in the accountability system. While 95% of students are required to participate in assessments, the stakes will not necessarily be as high.

Q: What provisions are there to ensure teacher voice and to ensure that working conditions are considered?

A. Local educational agencies can use funds to develop feedback mechanisms to improve school working conditions, including through periodically and publicly reporting results of educator support and working conditions feedback.

Q: Are there provisions for professional development in the new law?

A. Yes. Resources will be provided to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, paraprofessionals, principals and other educators. The bill maintains a broad focus on making funds available for professional development, professional growth and leadership opportunities. Specific language provides that a state can use funds for centers on induction, class-size reduction, mentoring, career pathways and recruiting a diverse teacher workforce.

Q: Does ESSA provide any resources to evaluate teachers’ working conditions and stress levels?

A. Yes. ESSA allows states and districts to use Title II funds to conduct and publicly report on an assessment of educator support and working conditions that would be developed with teachers, leaders, parents, students and the community. It also encourages stakeholder involvement by requiring consultation with stakeholders to update and improve state activities.

Q. When does the new law take affect?

A. The new accountability system will take effect at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. State assessment requirements and other requirements became effective on December 10, 2015.

A goal of Learners Edge is to ultimately improve the quality of teaching and learning. We strive to do this every day by providing high-quality online courses for teachers to meet their continuing education and professional development needs. As teachers are required to adapt to ever changing standards, we plan on continuing to support you in the classroom in every way possible. To find out more about Learners Edge, visit our website via the link below.


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