Goodbye to No Child Left Behind, Hello to Every Student Succeeds

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 12:06 PM

In early December 2015, Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This will somewhat replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2002.

NCLB has received a lot of well-deserved criticism over the years from teachers, schools and students alike. The act mandated all public schools give a standardized test to students each year. In order to receive funding, these schools must meet their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals for the tests in order to receive school funding.

If schools miss their AYP scores repeatedly, there are various corrective measures taken: an improvement plan, mandating the school offer free tutoring, possible replacement of staff or curriculum or the restructuring of the school.

Additionally, some states have connected the teachers’ salaries to the students’ test scores. This means if a class performs poorly under Mrs. Smith’s instruction, Mrs. Smith could receive a pay cut because of her failure to teach them. Many teachers have criticized this policy.

This policy does not take into account the fact that students may not be good test takers. Mrs. Smith’s class could receive As all year, but take a standardized test and completely freeze up and subsequently perform poorly. While I will agree there are some teachers who do not teach at all and probably deserve pay cuts, many do not because of their ability to “teach to the test.”

Unfortunately, because of NCLB, curriculum has become exactly this: teaching to the test. Students are learning that the only thing that matters in education is getting As and scoring well on standardized tests. Students are ultimately taking away no knowledge from their lessons because they are merely memorizing and regurgitating on tests and then instantly forgetting.

This is what’s wrong with our education system. With the implementation of ESSA, schools will no longer be required to report their AYP. Whereas NCLB left the states without much control over schools, ESSA will give power to the states to find where their schools are struggling. States will be able to develop their own standards for their students.

This act also relieves teachers from “teaching to the test.” No longer will teachers’ salaries be connected to their students’ test scores, which is the way it should be.

Our education system needs to focus on how teachers teach, not necessarily what they teach. The way to evaluate teachers is to see how effective they are in the classroom, not how well their students can perform on standardized tests. Hopefully as time goes on, states and administrators will be able to reform the teacher evaluation process effectively so that both the teachers and students are able to benefit from it.

I support the ESSA. I believe it will teach students that academics and education are more than just passing a test: it’s about learning something and taking that knowledge with you throughout your whole life. So many times we hear, “When will I ever need to know this?” in classes. My hope as a future educator is to no longer hear those words.

It’s about time we revamp our education system to help students learn rather than test.

Dakota Palmer is the Online Editor for The Spectator.

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