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Letter to House subcommittee on ESSA implementation

February 09, 2016

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we would like to submit for the record the following comments on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), in connection with tomorrow’s hearing, “Next Steps for K-12 Education: Implementing the Promise to Restore State and Local Control.”

Enacted just two months ago with broad, bipartisan support, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) departs from No Child Left Behind, the 2002 rewrite of ESEA, in important ways. Instead of testing, labeling, and punishing schools, the focus is equal opportunity for all students—regardless of ethnicity, income, or zip code. Instead of top-down mandates for standardized testing, accountability is built around multiple measures determined by states and school districts. Instead of being relegated to test preparation and administration, educators have a much greater role in deciding what is in the best interest of their students.

Above all, ESSA recognizes that the key to successful implementation is collaboration from start to finish—having students, educators, parents, community members, and other stakeholders work together to improve their schools. We welcome congressional oversight to ensure that true collaboration among all involved can occur.

For the first time in ESEA’s 50-year history, students’ access to opportunities and resources will be systematically tracked. New state-developed accountability systems, which will take effect starting in the 2017-18 school year, must include academic indicators as well as at least one indicator of school success or student support like those in NEA’s proposed “opportunity dashboard”—for example, access to advanced coursework, fine arts, regular physical education, school librarians, or counselors. It is our hope that capturing these data will push states to take steps to identify and begin closing opportunity and resource gaps to the benefit of all students.

We are especially pleased that the new law promotes respect for educators, the profession of education, and acknowledges that educators are the experts in teaching and learning. Multiple provisions ensure that educators’ voices will be part of decision making at all levels—federal, state, and local. For example, the new law envisions committees of practitioners (teachers, paraeducators, and specialized support professionals with recent classroom experience) working with parents and community members to improve their schools. To that end, state and local affiliates, with NEA coordination, have already begun the process of working toward effective implementation of the law, including engaging with state and local policymakers, school officials, parents, and community leaders. We are bringing together state and local leaders and experts to join distinguished classroom teachers and education support professionals to help in this endeavor.

We thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments. NEA stands ready to work with the committee to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act—a historic victory for the students who are the future of America.


Mary Kusler 
Director of Government Relations