New Education Legislation: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Education Legislation Through the Decades

1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Legislation Bill into law

1965: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Elementary and Secondary Education Bill into law

In December of 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002.  This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) attempted to address some of the issues that made No Child Left Behind a source of challenge and frustration for many school districts nation-wide.

While the policies of federal education reform legislation have changed over the decades, one goal has remained constant: close the achievement gaps between poor and minority students and the more advantaged.

Elementary and Secondary Education Bill

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Bill into law as part of the “War on Poverty” along with a wave of civil rights legislation. Federal funding was granted to schools that had higher rates of poverty and larger achievement gaps.  The provision for this funding is known as Title I.

“As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty. As a former teacher – and, I hope, a future one – I have great expectations of what this law will mean for all of our young people. As President of the United States, I believe deeply no law I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.”
– President Lyndon Johnson, during his remarks in Johnson City, Texas upon signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Bill, April 11, 1965

No Child Left Behind

Every five years congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), but in 2001 George W. Bush pushed through major reform known as The No Child Left Behind law.

“We know that every child can learn. Now is the time to ensure that every child does learn.” – George W. Bush January 8, 2002

The No Child Left Behind law focused on improving teacher and principal quality to ensure that teachers became “highly qualified.”

President George W. Bush signs education legislation, No Child Left Behind

2001: President George W. Bush signs a major reform known as No Child Left Behind

A “highly qualified” teacher by definition of federal law:

  • “…Holds at least a bachelor degree from a four year institution, fully certified or licensed by the state, and demonstrates competence in each core academic subject area in which the teacher teaches.”

Another key section of reform in the No Child Left Behind law was in Title I: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged:

“The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.”  – Public Law print of PL 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

In continuing the effort to close achievement gaps, increase equity, improve the quality of instruction, and improve outcomes for all students, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015.

“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.” — President Barack Obama

The focus of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) legislation lies in these areas:

  • Holds all students to high academic standards
  • Prepares all students for success in college and career
  • Provides more kids access to high-quality preschool
  • Guarantees steps are taken to help students, and their schools, improve
  • Reduces the burden of testing while maintaining annual information for parents and students
  • Promotes local innovation and invests in what works
    2015: President Barack Obama signs education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

    2015: President Barack Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The future of professional teacher and administrator certifications

Every new law presents challenges and opportunities. For example, professional teacher and administrator certifications are frequently an area addressed by legislation. Will your state be implementing changes in this area? As this first year unfolds, educators will discover what challenges ESSA will present. We will address them in future blogs, so check back frequently.

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