So much of the strength of our communities, and our country, is derived from the promise of opportunity—the idea that if you work hard, you can make of your life what you will.
For that promise to be realized, we must be committed to providing all students—regardless of their background or circumstances—with a high-quality college- and career-ready education. As President Obama has said, this is the civil rights issue of our time.
Our new, federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides a powerful opportunity for educators, administrators, school leaders, parents and families, and everyone who works on behalf of our children’s future, to ensure excellence and equity in our public schools—and to reclaim the promise of a truly high- quality, well-rounded education for every student.
ESSA replaces the one-size-fits-all approach of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and creates a new federal-state partnership that provides greater flexibility for states and districts. And unlike NCLB, which incentivized states to lower standards, ESSA also sets the important goal for schools across our country to ensure that all students graduate prepared to thrive in college and careers.
Toward those ends, today, the U.S. Department of Education is releasing for public comment a set of proposed regulations to give states the clarity they need as they rethink their accountability and school improvement systems. This marks an important step along the path to implementing ESSA in a way that allows the law to live up to its potential as a tool for enhancing educational excellence and equity.
To get to this day and to this announcement, the Department of Education considered hundreds of comments from the public and held well over 100 meetings and events across the nation, receiving input from students, parents, educators, school leaders, state and local administrators, tribes, civil rights organizations, and business leaders.
Because of this input from people who care deeply about education, we believe today’s proposed regulations hold great promise as a tool for helping schools in every community become more equitable so all students get what they need to learn, grow, and succeed.
The Department is interested in hearing even more from stakeholders—and we look forward to receiving comments during the public comment period, beginning on Tuesday, May 31, and over the next 60 days. Consider making your voice heard. We are taking these comments very seriously, understanding that our final regulations will be stronger because of that input.
In addition to added flexibility for states, the proposed regulations offer a more holistic approach to measuring a quality education. This means that NCLB’s narrow definition of school success, which was based primarily on test scores in math and English language arts and graduation rates, will be replaced with a broader view, to include such things as student growth, college and career readiness, school climate, or students’ progress toward English language proficiency.
Importantly, the regulations also uphold ESSA’s critical civil rights protections and enhance equity for historically underserved students by including all students and each subgroup in decisions related to school support and improvement. This will help ensure that meaningful action is taken in places where whole schools or groups of students are falling behind, and that clear and transparent information on critical measures of school quality and equity are provided to parents and community members. Furthermore, the regulations help to ensure more transparency for parents, educators, and community members around resource equity measures, such as access to preschool, access to rigorous coursework, and school discipline, including requiring that this information be made public on state and local report cards.
Where NCLB prescribed top-down interventions for struggling schools, the Department’s proposed regulations provide flexibility for schools and districts to implement evidence-based, locally designed solutions to support and improve struggling schools. The regulations also reinforce ESSA’s strong commitment to transparency and define a clear role for parents, families, teachers, school leaders, and a broad range of other stakeholders in the development and implementation of state and local plans and the school improvement process; and a planning year will ensure this work is done thoughtfully.
For an at-a-glance reference guide for the ways in which these proposed regulations differ from NCLB, see below.
Today’s proposed regulations are a critical step toward realizing the potential of ESSA. Taken together, they will promote a more well-rounded, holistic education while upholding critical protections to ensure the progress of all students toward success in college and careers.
If you’re interested in learning even more, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For more information on ESSA implementation and resources, visit www.ed.gov/essa. Remember, your voice matters in the effort to expand opportunity to every child. We welcome your input starting on Tuesday, May 31 and over the next 60 days. The proposal we’re announcing today will require that all of us—at every level—work together to implement ESSA in a way that enlarges the potential of all our students and ensures that those who need extra supports receive them.
Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in learning even more, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For more information on ESSA implementation and resources, visit www.ed.gov/essa. Remember, your voice matters in the effort to expand opportunity to every child. We welcome your input starting on Tuesday, May 31 and over the next 60 days. To submit a formal comment on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, visit the posting on the Federal Register’s website. The proposal we’re announcing today will require that all of us—at every level—work together to implement ESSA in a way that enlarges the potential of all our students and ensures that those who need extra supports receive them.