On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (S.1177), passed by both houses of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congress’s intent was to give more authority to states, districts, and local governments to determine education policy. Congressional representatives are also sensitive to the concerns of civil rights groups and disability advocates and want to ensure that all children are educated and not left behind.
All fifty states and the District of Columbia must now determine how they will assess their students and hold themselves accountable. On June 23, 2016, the US Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter to encourage stakeholder engagement by states in the design and implementation of their plans. Among the groups that they recommend to be at the table include
“teachers from geographically diverse areas (urban, suburban, rural and tribal areas) who serve different grade levels (e.g., early education, elementary school, secondary school) and who are serving the diverse students served by the law, including students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, English learners, and students with disabilities.”
On July 7, 2016, the US Department of Education also released two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking that address assessments. These rules address what tests states can use for their annual assessments, alternative assessments for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, and accommodations for English language learners and Native American students.
As educators, this is your opportunity to be at the table and to have a voice in your state’s plan. NCTE created ESSA Implementation in the States, a website that will be continually updated to give you the information you need to participate. It lists all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Each state is different: some list websites, others individuals or agencies to contact. Some list town hall meetings and others provide links to surveys. Two states, Oklahoma and Utah, have yet to post any information. We encourage all of you to see what your state has planned and to participate, if you can and so wish.
As educators who are on the front lines every day in the classroom, you have the best knowledge of what works and doesn’t work for your students. Use that knowledge and have a voice.