DECEMBER 14, 2015
New education law shifts power back to states
After clearing both houses of Congress, President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday the Every Student Succeeds Act, a law that curbs the federal government’s influence in education in favor of returning control to states and local districts.
“The reality is every school is unique,” said Rob Clayton, superintendent of Warren County Public Schools. “Success does not look the same for all kids.”
The main focus of the Every Student Succeeds Act is to restore local control with limited federal oversight. Each state develops its own method of evaluating school quality, the Washington Post reported. States still have to test students annually in math and reading between third grade and eighth grade and once in high school, and they must publicly report scores based on categories like race and whether the students are English-language learners.
What’s different is that states can determine what to do about the most troubled schools, decide how to weigh test scores, whether and how to evaluate teachers and set time lines for progress with federal approval.
Clayton sees the increased local autonomy as a positive.
“I think the success of any organization is incumbent upon that organization having some autonomy to achieve the results,” he said.
Gary Fields, superintendent of Bowling Green Independent School District, echoed that sentiment.
“Well, I think it’s a great opportunity for the state of Kentucky and local districts to make decisions based on what’s best for our kids and our community,” he said, adding that more federal oversight “just makes it more difficult to stay focused.”
Rolled back federal influence doesn’t necessarily mean lower standards, Fields said, and districts will still have standards in place. The one-size-fits-all approach wasn’t feasible for every school and was too tough to implement, he said.
Fields sees the law playing out differently across the country, but said things probably won’t change right away locally. Leslie McCoy, a city schools spokeswoman, added that Kentucky has had a waiver from No Child Left Behind since 2012 so effects from the new law may not be that drastic.
Tony Norman is the director of the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Western Kentucky University and a professor of educational psychology. He takes a mixed view.
For many educators, Norman said, the No Child Left Behind law was merely “no child left untested,” causing teachers to go against their instincts about how to prepare students for the real world and teach to the test.
“Certainly I think it allows us to seek a better balance between the idea of national curriculum and national direction and also recognizing the unique needs of the children within the states and the local districts,” he said.
The downside of the new legislation is that pervasive inequalities in education on the local level could be exacerbated without federal support, he said.
Rather than having a centralized and distant Washington authority, Norman hopes parents will hold school districts accountable by becoming more involved.
By Aaron Mudd
Bowling Green Daily News
(NOTE: The Lazer staff sent a request for comment to Lawrence Co. Schools Supt. Robbie Fletcher regarding the impact this new federal law will have locally and we are awaiting his response.)