The Education Trust – West Statement on the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
With California on the cusp of crucial decisions about our school and district accountability system, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides an opportunity to ensure we develop a single, more meaningful accountability system that protects and supports all students. While the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) is not a perfect bill, it includes important safeguards for low-income students, students of color, English learners, and other subgroups of students. In a time when bipartisanship is often thought of as a thing of the past, representatives from both sides of the aisle agreed on a simple but crucial point: A school should not be labeled a “good” school if it consistently fails a group of students.
“ESSA provides essential protections for the students that are often afterthoughts instead of at the forefront of our education decisions” said Ed Trust – West Executive Director Ryan J. Smith “California is a leader on many fronts, and we should show the nation how ESSA can support states in developing a holistic accountability system that provides the transparency, supports, and assurances necessary to close achievement and opportunity gaps in our state.”
Specifically, the bill includes the following fundamental protections for vulnerable students:
- Statewide accountability systems that include gap-closing goals for student outcomes, meaningful differentiation between schools based on the progress of all students and each group of students, and the expectation of action when any group of students is consistently underperforming;
- Consistent, state-adopted standards for all children that are aligned with the demands of college and careers;
- Annual statewide assessment to provide objective, comparable data on how all students are performing;
- Comprehensive public reporting on outcomes and opportunities to learn for all groups of children, including per-pupil expenditures, access to rigorous coursework, and measures of school climate;
- Attention to, and a commitment to addressing, inequities in access to ineffective, out-of-field, and inexperienced teachers;
- Sustained investment in public education, with the targeting of Title I dollars to the highest poverty schools and districts
The Act shifts many decisions about education from Washington to the states, while including requirements that those decisions lead to improved results for our highest need students. With increased local control comes the opportunity to serve California students in ways that make the most sense for our state and its 10,000 schools. However, the challenge ahead will be in guaranteeing that state and local leaders make equity-minded decisions that provide resources, support, and interventions if necessary to the schools and students who need them most.
We at The Education Trust – West see the House passage of ESSA as a clear signal that now is the time to go all in on closing these gaps. This momentum should not be lost upon us as the State Board of Education and California State Legislature consider proposals for the new accountability system. We look forward to working with the civil rights community and other education advocates to use the levers in ESSA to propel forward the important work of redesigning a state accountability system that prioritizes equity in tangible, targeted, and results-oriented ways.