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Every Student Succeeds Act Ushers in Sweeping Changes

Congress maintained the best of the original intent of the ESEA — targeting resources for schools and children most in need — and slammed the door on federally prescribed high-stakes testing.
“For nearly 15 years, we’ve been treading water as top-down, test-and-sanction-based reforms failed to help all kids succeed,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten, who attended the bill signing at the White House. “Parents, students and educators came together with one message: ‘Enough with the testing fixation. Let’s bring back the joy of learning.’ Legislators on both sides of the aisle listened, worked with one another and delivered,” she added.
Click here for national press coverage of the bill’s signing.
The new ESSA law represents a significant course correction acknowledging that more than a decade’s worth of education reforms based on test-and-sanction policies were a failure. Passage and the president’s signature of the bill into law sends a strong signal to states that these failed policies should not be pursued. 
The new law: 
  • Prohibits the federal government from mandating teacher evaluations;
  • Stops the federal government from prescribing high-stakes consequences like school closures and conversions;
  • Opposes support for private school vouchers, portability or other divisive policies;
  • Includes more transparency and accountability for charters; and
  • Maintains certification requirements for paraprofessionals.
While the new bill doesn’t solve all problems, it opens the way for states to give teachers the latitude to teach so their students can reach their potential. It creates an opportunity to press the reset button so public schools can be places where teachers want to teach, parents want to send their kids and students are engaged.
“I could not be prouder of our union members and the many allies who have worked at our side over the past year to achieve this historic victory,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel. “Now the real work of implementing the bill begins. Adopting an approach to public education that’s more focused on teaching and learning will require more support and latitude for local educators and stakeholders,” she added.
“Leaving behind NCLB opens the door for an in-depth review and analysis so that best practices can be implemented,” said AFT Connecticut Vice President for PreK-12 teachers Patti White-Fusco. “There’s a lot to discuss based on our members’ experience here in Connecticut over the past decade. Their insights will be important to helping craft the fairest and most appropriate way to evaluate and assess educational outcomes going forward,” added Fusco, a gifted and talented education teacher in West Haven Public Schools.
Click here for press coverage of the bill’s passage with a local perspective.
As Weingarten, Hochadel, and Fusco indicated, there is still a lot of work ahead to reclaim the promise of a great public education. Members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated PreK-12 and Paraprofessionals & School-Related Personnel (PSRP) unions are invited to participate in a telephone town hall on Thursday, December 17 on next steps. National AFT leaders and a special guest from the White House policy team will be on hand to discuss what the new ESSA law means for public education. 
Click here to RSVP to attend next Thursday’s tele-town hall, which begins at 8:00PM.
All of our members must continue to engage parents, allies and other stakeholders as work shifts to the states to fix accountability systems and develop evaluation systems that are fair. To achieve the goals of improving and supporting good instruction we must make sure educators’ voices are heard and listened to throughout implementation of the new law here in Connecticut.
Click here for our previous update on efforts to pass the legislation.

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