ESSA Offers Opportunity for Ohio to Get Education Right for Our Children

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(Dec. 8, 2015) Teachers across Ohio are excited by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the opportunities it creates for Ohio to reset education policy to focus on students and their success, and end the harmful test fixation that has become the predominant schooling strategy.

The ESSA was overwhelmingly approved Dec. 3 by the U.S. House of Representatives as reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow.

"While we still believe that too much focus is placed on assessments, Ohio has taken steps in the right direction this year by reducing the amount of testing. We look forward  to working with policymakers in their new authority under ESSA to reset the course in Ohio by focusing on building a system that puts children in the forefront," said Melissa Cropper. President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

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.

"The ESSA 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 ESSA will mark a sea change in education policy in this country. How will it impact Ohio?

·         The state will be in control of its teacher evaluation system. Federal funds will not be tied to federal teacher evaluation requirements.

·         Within parameters, the state will set its own accountability system that does not have to follow a rigid “adequate yearly progress” construct. States will still have to disaggregate results by subgroup.

·         The accountability systems can include non-test measures like working conditions, school climate and safety, and educator engagement.

·         English language learners can have up to three years to take the language arts assessments in their native language before taking such tests in English. States can appropriately delay inclusion of English learners’ test scores in accountability systems while they are first learning English, and can include former English learners for four years as part of English learner subgroup.

·         The state will set its own interventions for struggling schools. The federal government won’t specify sanctions (school closings, teacher firings, forced transfers, etc.) in return for money.

·         The state will set its own content standards and aligned assessments, and the federal government cannot require the Common Core, or PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests.

·         Several states will be allowed to develop and implement of a performance assessment system, such as the New York Performance Standards Consortium has done.

·         States will be provided funds to audit their testing policies to decrease unnecessary tests.

·         Collective bargaining protections are expanded to include both school improvement initiatives and teacher quality provisions.

·         Class-size reduction remains an allowable use of funds, and community schools receive their own funding.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions the social and economic well-being of our members, Ohio’s children, families, working people, and communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.