The successor to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires broad stakeholder input, but its potential rests on educators raising their voices and being heard.
In December 2015, Congress turned the page on the failed NCLB era with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—putting many critical decisions into the hands of states. Much of the law’s success depends on what New Jersey chooses to do.
One of the first key processes under the law will be New Jersey’s creation of its individual state accountability system. Unlike NCLB, which required testing as the primary measure, ESSA allows a system of multiple measures, including more than just testing, as part of a comprehensive plan. New Jersey must determine the measures to use and the weights of each inside of broad parameters. This accountability system will also include school improvement plans for districts.
However, New Jersey cannot make these critical decisions without what ESSA calls “timely and meaningful consultation” with specific stakeholders. These stakeholders include teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, other school staff, principals, legislators, parents, and school districts, among others.
These requirements extend to the local level. In the upcoming school year, local school districts will need to begin the process of creating local stakeholder teams that include appropriate representatives, such as teachers, paraprofessionals, other school staff, parents and other community members.
NJEA is committed to ensuring that the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) honors the “timely and meaningful consultation” requirement in ESSA. To do so, NJEA is in the process of setting up local and regional meetings of NJEA members and NJDOE staff. NJEA is also calling for the development of a broad stakeholder table inclusive of all groups required in ESSA and sustained for the long term. NJEA believes that NJEA members and other friends of public education in the community offer a unique and critical perspective on the implementation of the newest federal education law.
No Child Left Behind taught us hard lessons about a top-down approach to education developed by data technicians, not educators. ESSA promises an innovative new approach, with stakeholder voices raised at the table.