By now, most teachers and principals have seen the iconic image of President Barack Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. Unfortunately, almost a year later, many educators are still struggling to understand exactly what the law is, what it says, and how it will impact their classrooms.
Why do educators need to understand ESSA?
In short, it is impossible to advocate for our students if we lack an awareness of new legislation that will soon shape and guide education policy in America.
The law, along with the regulations guiding its implementation, has the potential to change many aspects of teaching and learning. For example, the law redefines professional learning as “sustained, (not stand-alone, 1-day, and short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, [and] classroom focused.”
At least 92% percent of the more than $2 billion in Title II funding will flow directly to districts, who can use the funding to increase pay for teachers in high-need areas, design induction and mentoring programs, or develop feedback mechanisms to improve school-working conditions. Educators like you stand to directly impact how that money is used.
That’s just one of many examples of how ESSA gives states, districts, and school will increased flexibility and independence. The law also requires that education agencies engage educators meaningfully to design and implement their plans for the law.
What should educators focus on in the law?
There’s too much in the 449 page legislation for anyone to understand all of it, but as an educator and an advocate, you can have the most impact by focusing on one or two key areas of the law. Think carefully about what is mostly likely to impact your school or classroom and set out to read and learn as much as you can about those topics.
For example, if you’re an art teacher, you may want to read more about ESSA’s call for a “well-rounded” education.” If you’re a teacher leader in your state, you may want to learn more about stakeholder engagement and teacher voice under the law. And if you’re a math or science teacher, you may want to learn more about ESSA’s impact on STEM education.
How can educators learn more?
Unfortunately, many of the ESSA resources that currently exist are designed for education agencies, policymakers, or large organizations – pretty much everyone but educators.
The good news is that Educators for High Standards has just launched ESSA for Educators. Organized by the topics important to educators, this new resource provides concise summaries (under 250 words!) of existing resources, highlighting exactly what teachers and principals need to know.
By clarifying the connection between these resources and classroom practice, teacher leadership, school climate, and more, ESSA for Educators provides digestible and actionable information for the practicing professional.