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Is the Promise of ESSA Being Actualized?

Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018 | 12:00pm

Co-Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers

On the bleakly polarized landscape of Capitol Hill politics, the December 2015 passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was a brief and exceptional moment of bi-partisan consensus. It was a moment of promise for the future of American education, premised on the idea that greater regulatory discretion for states and districts could create the policy space to correct the problems that had emerged during No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation. Chief among these problems were excessive standardized testing that was driving, not informing, American education and highly prescriptive federal frameworks for student promotion, teacher evaluation and school accountability that drew primarily upon that testing.

Now that the states have completed and submitted their first ESSA plans, it is an appropriate time to ask if the promise of ESSA is being realized. Which states and districts have used this new freedom to draw back from testing overreach, establishing more balanced approaches to student promotion, teacher evaluation and school accountability? Are states and districts using ESSA to provide the needed resources and supports to struggling schools, almost all of which serve students with the greatest needs? Are the fears that ESSA could diminish the federal government’s role as a promotor of educational equity and guardian of student civil rights proving reasonable? And if ESSA’s promise is not being realized, why not? What, if any, role has a Trump/DeVos Department of Education played in the first fruits of ESSA?

Our panelists addressed these questions from the perspective of actors who have been involved in the development of state ESSA plans and of national organizations with a concern for educational equity and excellence.

Speakers:

Jessica Cardichon, Director of Federal Policy and Director, Washington D.C. Office, Learning Policy Institute

Daniel Montgomery, President, Illinois Federation of Teachers

Matthew Stem, Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education

Marla Ucelli-Kashyap, Assistant to the President for Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers

Moderator: Burnie Bond, Director of Programs, Albert Shanker Institute