This week, the House of Representatives will take up the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate is scheduled to follow suit as soon the House is finished.
The new version of ESEA, called the Every Student Succeeds Act—if passed in Congress and signed by the president—is a paradigm shift. In eliminating the adequate yearly progress requirement and shifting the focus away from testing as the be all and end all, ESSA would provide a fresh start for states to re-envision public schooling, better aligning it to what students need to succeed. And it should be a wake-up call to any state that wants to double down on what will now be the discarded test-and-punish system that has dominated in recent years.
We wouldn’t be here without you. Our members, activists and leaders worked hard to make sure our message—as parents, as educators, as community members and as people who want to make a difference in the lives of children—was heard. More than 130,000 of you took action online, made phone calls, submitted comments on the bill and met with your members of Congress, and it made a difference.
The bill is not perfect, and with so much authority being turned over to the states, we will have our work cut out for us. But ESSA brings us closer to letting states, local districts and educators focus on students and their success, and to ending the harmful test fixation that has become the predominant schooling strategy. It sends a clear signal to states that the policies of No Child Left Behind, waivers and Race to the Top should be abandoned, not replicated. By maintaining funding for the students who need it most; not including support for private school vouchers, portability or other divisive policies; and including more transparency and accountability for charters, the bill also signals to states that these are unproven policies that should not be pursued.
The upcoming votes on ESSA will mark a sea change in education policy in this country. But first,we need to make a last push to the finish line.
Thank you so much for everything you have done and will do in the next few days.