Leaving No Child behind, advocates celebrate Obama’s signing of Every Student Succeeds Act

Lily Eskelsen García is president of the National Education Association, and Cornell Williams Brooks is president and CEO of the NAACP.

With today’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act by President Obama, the pair discuss the significance of the end of No Child Left Behind and their hopes for the new law.

By Lily Eskelsen García and Cornell Williams Brooks

Good things come to those who wait, the saying goes. After more than a decade of false starts, Congress has passed a law that may very well deliver what the nation’s students, especially the most underserved, need and deserve—equal opportunity to a high-quality education regardless of their zip code. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, finally chose to put students ahead of partisan politics and replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the successor to the Early and Secondary Education Act.

Lily

Lily Eskelsen García

On our part, it took a herculean effort to get Congress to rewrite the failed law. When enacted 50 years ago, it was clear that under ESEA, educational opportunities for Black and poor children were abysmal and unequal to what white students received in wealthier, well-resourced school districts. Five decades later, those gaps persist—despite the NCLB’s promise to level the playing field for the nation’s most vulnerable students. While the nation’s new education law won’t be a panacea for what ails America’s students and schools, there is no doubt that ESSA represents an important step forward in ushering in a new era for public education—namely providing every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

ESSA will work to provide more opportunity for all students, including for the first time, indicators of school success or student support to help identify and begin closing opportunity gaps.

Cornell Williams Brooks

Cornell Williams Brooks

Let’s begin with culturally biased high-stakes testing. Decoupling of high-stakes associated with standardized tests, ensuring that students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach, is what ESSA promises. And it’s what we urged Congress to do in the reauthorization. Previously, accountability hinged entirely on high stakes standardized test scores, a single number that has been used to determine whether students advance or graduate, or teachers keep their jobs.

The problem is, a single test score is like a blinking “check engine” light on the dashboard. It can tell us something’s wrong but not how to fix it. As parents and educators, we want to know which middle school students are succeeding in science, technology, engineering and math tracks that will land them in advanced high school courses, and ultimately get them into a university. These things can be measured. That’s why both the NEA and the NAACP have long opposed culturally and linguistically biased high-stakes testing.  ESSA will require the use of multiple measures of student success in elementary, middle, and high school—not just test scores.

Students, teachers and parents provided us with clear evidence of what biased-testing and over testing can do. Congress made crucial steps toward getting the job done.  We have a new education law, but our work on behalf of equity, opportunity and access for students doesn’t end here. There is still much at stake for our students and educators. We will continue to lift up the voices of the people who know the names of the students in their schools and classrooms and ensure that Congress keeps its promise under ESSA.

In the community and in the classroom, we will continue to encourage the future elected leaders, fashion designers, cardiologists and aerodynamic engineers, architects, nurses, school principals, doctors, and lawyers. Students can’t climb to these heights when accountability in our education system hinges on high-stakes and culturally biased standardized test scores, not cultivating intellectual opportunity—the real measure of education.

Success, boundless opportunities and the American Dream are waiting for our students. With a quality education—their civil right—students can achieve it. The promise of educational opportunities for all students, especially the nation’s most vulnerable ones, will be theirs.  Together, we will keep pushing because our students matter.

 

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
class80olddog
class80olddog

The opportunities may be equal, but the results will not be.

Bitcoined
Bitcoined

The problem for the teachers' union is that black and other minority parents aren't going to remain silent about lemon teachers who can't be fired due to labor laws.

In too many districts, failing public schools still suffer from all the systemic dysfunction exposed in the documentary film WAITING FOR SUPERMAN.

Nothing has changed.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Bitcoined 

Those parents who work to build a bond with their children's teachers will be rewarded by having less rebellious children, themselves.  Harmony is more productive than discord.
Communication is more productive than conflict.

Starik
Starik

"Let’s begin with culturally biased high-stakes testing"  Unfortunately, culture has a massive influence on success, and it's perfectly OK to test appropriately. 

Travelfish
Travelfish

Any testing which shows how little learning is taking place in public schools will be loudly excoriated by the teachers' unions. And their media mouthpieces.

That won't change.

sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Travelfish


As opposed to the corporations whose first and foremost goal is to cut costs and improve profits, all while cutting the wages of the workers but increasing the CEO's paycheck

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I see promise in the evolving national plan for public education through ESSA, and I predict that instructional delivery will continue to evolve over time for the betterment of students and teachers throughout the nation. 

For the educational and legislative leaders who may read this thread, I wish to recommend the following, as a now retired Instructional Lead Teacher, grades 1 - 7, and  high school Reading Department Chair, grades 9 - 12, for 25 years: 


When the state, county, and/or regional school systems establish more voluntary Reading Centers for grades 1 - 12 and for colleges and universities throughout America, and make these Reading Centers vibrant and active through the hiring of trained and motivated personnel to run them, then America's educational institutions will see scores increase in every curriculum area, including in mathematics - from grades 1 - 16 - across America.

Bill Fisher
Bill Fisher

@MaryElizabethSings I see you have not included any roles/responsibilities for parents; so, we continue to view government as the solution..............and we relive the classic definition of idiocy.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Bill Fisher 

You assume, and you know the truism which surrounds assuming.  In fact, I was made a "Teacher of the Year" by a national corporation for my community outreach to parents into the Reading Center and the schoolwide reading program I supervised for 15 years in a suburban all-black high school. 


Don't assume.