Last year, I reflected on some of the Presidents who played a significant role in improving the lives of children with disabilities (read the blog here). I thought this year I would share some information on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was recently passed by our current administration. As President Obama commented:
“With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will.”
ESSA was signed on December 10, 2015, and represents good news for our nation’s schools. This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.
The new law builds on key areas of progress in recent years, made possible by the efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students across the country.
For example, today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. These achievements provide a firm foundation for further work to expand educational opportunity and improve student outcomes under ESSA.
The previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, was enacted in 2002. NCLB represented a significant step forward for our nation’s children in many respects, particularly as it shined a light on where students were making progress and where they needed additional support, regardless of race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background.
ESSA includes provisions that will help to ensure success for students and schools. Below are just a few. The law:
- Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.
- Requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
- Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.
- Helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators—consistent with our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods
- Sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
- Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.
It will now be the responsibility of each state to step forward with their plans for implementation of ESSA. I am hopeful and will be watching and sharing my thoughts with you as it unfolds.