Byron's Babbles

Why is ESSA so Fascinating?

POTUSessa1I am so proud to be our Indiana State Board of Education’s representative to the task force, formed under HEA 1395, and charged with studying the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and our ISTEP+ summative high stakes Indiana test. Ever since the bill was signed into law on December 10, 2015 by President Barack Obama, I have been fascinated with the possibilities that lie ahead for our children. I have the opportunity to speak about my views and thoughts on ESSA and most recently spoke at the District 9 Meeting of the Indiana Association of School Principals and led off discussing my own and the nation’s fascination with ESSA. But why? Why am I and so many others so fascinated with ESSA?


Speaking to District 9 Principals of the Indiana Association of School Principals

I believe there are a three big reasons for this fascination:

  1. The historic nature of this law that started back with President Lyndon B. Johnson, was revisited in the President George W. Bush era, and now with ESSA being signed into law by our current President Barack Obama. President Obama told us that when ESSA goes into full effect with the 2017-18 school year, we will be maintaining Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights legacy of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which turned 50 last year. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was originally passed as part of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration’s War on Poverty campaign. The original goal of the law, which remains today, was to improve educational equity for students from lower-income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students. Since its initial passage, ESEA has been reauthorized seven times, most recently in January 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Each reauthorization brought changes to the program, but its central goal remains: improving the educational opportunities and outcomes for children from lower-income families.
  2. It was also historic and fascinating that ESSA passed by a huge bipartisan margin after eight years of debate. ESSA passed by a vote of 359 to 64 in the U.S. House of Representatives and a vote of 85 to 12 in the U.S. Senate. President Obama acknowledged No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law and the work of President George W. Bush, but also said the NCLB “often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.” He went on to say that ESSA “creates real partnerships between the states, which will have new flexibility to tailor their improvement plans, and the federal government, which will have the oversight to make sure that the plans are sound.” I believe this opportunity for collaboration between states, including state legislatures, state boards of education, communities, families, schools, and all other external and internal stakeholders, and the federal governments fascinates us and has us dreaming of the possibilities.
  3. Finally, I believe we are fascinated with the opportunity to invent unexpected solutions. Innovation is a major pillar of fascination. Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican – Tennessee, and a key architect of ESSA said it best when he stated “What I believe is that when we take the handcuffs off, we’ll unleash a whole flood of innovation and ingenuity classroom by classroom, state by state, that will benefit children.” Ingenuity and innovation – now that is fascinating and we in Indiana and every other state need to take full advantage of the opportunities that ESSA provides for our students.

With this fascination comes responsibility. As I stated earlier, we have the opportunity to invent unexpected solutions – in other words, INNOVATE. Many talk about the POWER going back to the states under ESSA and even as a card carrying fan of my hero, Patrick Henry (who was an advocate of individual and state’s rights), I would rather say “RESPONSIBILITY back to the states.” Power guides action, so we have the responsibility in Indiana to guide the action and bring all internal and external stakeholders together for a true collaboration to develop innovate for great solutions for the children of Indiana and our Nation.



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  1. […] post about what stays the same under ESSA. I previously blogged about our fascination with ESSA in Why Is ESSA So Fascinating? Because of the many years of state’s frustrations over what were considered by many to be a […]


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