It is my belief that passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the repeal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) offers our nation new hope in public education. Even the name of the new act — featuring the words “every” and “succeeds” instead of “no” and “behind” — suggests a positive direction for the future. Many educators, as well as other citizens, remember the No Child Left Behind era (2002-2015) as a period of federal overreach and of “blame and shame.”  Teachers felt de-professionalized as important teaching decisions were being taken out of their hands. Furthermore, teachers were blamed and held accountable for low student achievement, and at the same time, pressured to use scripted curriculum materials. Governments began to designate schools as “failing,” and it was not coincidental that these were usually schools filled with economically disadvantaged children.
ESSA retains from No Child Left Behind the requirement for annual testing of all students, 3rd through 8th grades. Even so, states, communities, and teachers now have much more autonomy in deciding what and how to teach. Thus, they will be able to set their own courses of action for improving achievement. Because it was passed through bipartisan efforts in a deeply-divided Congress, the Every Student Succeeds Act was described by President Obama as a “Christmas Miracle.” Lamar Alexander, Republican senator from Tennessee and an architect of the law, expressed his high hopes for ESSA by saying,
- So what is the path to higher standards in mathematics?
- What are the learning goals we should set for students which will move the U.S. upward in international standings?
- How do we monitor student progress toward meeting world-class standards and goals?
Now, go to the “Math Proficiency by Third Grade” page to learn about existing tools, which we can use in our ongoing efforts toward world-class math proficiency for our children — “community by community, classroom by classroom, state by state.”
Thoughts about NCLB’s federal overreach come from a May 5, 2016 article by Tim Walker in NEA Today. In that same article Walker quotes Becky Pringle, Vice President of NEA, as calling NCLB a period of “blame and shame.”