ESSA Law – A Teachers Opinion

January 18, 2016
CJ Cannizzaro
education Technology and ESSA


ESSA- Education Opinion

What is ESSA and why do we need it? 



ESSA — the Every Student Succeeds Act — is the newest legislation for K-12 education recently signed into law. It replaces the old (and outdated) NCLB (No Child Left Behind) education law: the first education reform bill since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

More importantly, the new law puts the responsibility on the states rather than the federal government to ensure students are successful by stripping away the high stakes testing while maintaining annual testing requirements for grades 3-8 and in high school. Most importantly, the new law removes the requirement that states use students’ test scores to evaluate teachers.

This previous requirement had done more harm than good to the teaching profession as a whole in that there was very little wiggle room for teachers who were faced with insurmountable obstacles in the classroom over which they had no control. There were no provisions to “level the playing field” between affluent and lower socioeconomic circumstances and proved to be ineffective in the implementation of high stakes tests and accountability to close the achievement gap.

Implications for Common Core

According to Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and the Collaborative for Student Success (another common-core supporter) — ESSA “forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in state decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.”

The two national teachers’ unions (NEA and AFT), have both endorsed the new legislation since it allows states to set their own goals with respect to test scores, does not contain a federal mandate regarding teacher evaluations, and could broadly reduce the overall impact of assessments in states’ accountability systems.

Both groups concur with the fact that Common Core (or more specifically the backlash over Common Core) played an instrumental role in recognizing that national standards and high stakes testing was more an impediment rather than an incentive to student engagement and learning.

The Key Points of ESSA

  •  Ensure states set high standards: so children graduate high school ready for college and career.
  •  Maintain accountability: guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states target resources towards what works to help  them and their schools improve.
  •  Empower state and local decision-makers: to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon  evidence.
  •  Preserve annual assessments and reduce unnecessary and ineffective testing: making sure that standardized tests don’t  crowd out teaching and learning.
  • Provide more children access to high-quality preschool: giving them the chance to get a strong start to their education.
  • Establish new resources: to test promising practices and replicate proven strategies that will drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.

Education Policy Summary

Since this is the first update to public education policy since NCLB was signed into law in 2001, time will tell if the Legislature has “finally gotten it right” and if this will repair the image of a “broken educational system” — as well as restore the image of the teaching profession. No more common core for now, but time will tell.

CJ is a certified professional educator with a MS in Instructional Technology. With over 25 years in education she is a consultant  to educational textbook publishers, school districts and corporations. As a professional development and training specialist  she was a major contributor to the CPALMS project, as well as a designer and facilitator for the Florida PROMiSE Grant Initiative.  She has written professional development courses to integrate technology in the classroom and collaborated with school districts  on Common Core for Math grades K-8. Originally a NJ native, she now resides in Florida where she continues to share her teaching strategies and educational technology ideas.