December 11, 2015

NCLB era comes to an end as Every Student Succeeds Act is signed into law

The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 10, marking the end of the No Child Left Behind era.

The ESSA dramatically shrinks NCLB's grinding test and punish regime, lays a path for new flexible pillars of school accountability, and reaffirms the original law's vision that a ZIP code shouldn't determine the quality of a child's education. And PSEA members had a lot to do with this victory.

"PSEA members have spoken out about this for years," said PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak. "This goes to show that if people speak out about things that affect kids, legislators will listen. Our work to address the problems of high-stakes, toxic testing is far from over, but this is a promising step forward."

NCLB's focus on standardized testing tied to high-stakes decisions has created a toxic environment for educators. ESSA reduces high-stakes testing. While the law will require annual tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school, it takes several important steps to reduce testing and decouple high-stakes decisions from these assessments.

Changes included in ESSA


ESSA will allow educators to have a greater voice in making decisions for their students and classrooms. The new law prohibits the federal government from mandating teacher evaluations or defining what an "effective" teacher is. In addition, it calls for collaboration among educators, parents, and the community on local school and state decisions regarding education.

Under ESSA, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is eliminated as a measure of student proficiency. The work will move to the state level, allowing districts to use another nationally recognized assessment in high school instead of state standardized tests. States will also set a cap on the number of hours students spend taking tests.

The new law will provide funding to states to audit and streamline assessment systems, eliminating those that are unnecessary or duplicate, allowing for improvement.

With this historic passage comes a rebuilding time. States must now work with local stakeholders and districts to design new and better accountability systems, and identify and fill opportunity gaps.

This victory in Washington serves as a rallying call for the work ahead in Pennsylvania.

"This gives us an opportunity," Oleksiak said. "It's very important we re-evaluate how we use Keystone Exams, PSSA scores, and School Performance Profiles. We can absolutely improve on these if we speak out. The work has just begun, but this is an excellent first step to a bright future for our students."

For more information about the ESSA, visit




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