Minnesota Senate Education Chair on new Federal Education Bill

Sen. Wiger says new legislation is a positive shift in attitude toward public education

ST. PAUL, Minn.  – As the White House is set to sign a modernized and reauthorized public education bill, public school systems can officially say goodbye to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The new bill, called The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is an example of shift in attitude away from shaming poorly performing schools. The list known as the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) is now gone. It’s also an acknowledgement that states know best how to improve their own public education systems. Minnesota Senate Education Chair Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), is in Washington D.C. this week for the momentous passage of the bill, and gave the following statements about the significance of this legislation.

“I’d really like to applaud the bipartisan work that went into crafting this important, and long overdue piece of legislation. The Every Student Succeeds Act strengthens local control and gives school districts and states much more flexibility to make choices that best work for their individual students. 

This bill retains the important accountability measures that ensures all students are being assessed and all schools are providing the very best in public education. Finally, ESSA also addresses teacher training and professional development in a big way by authorizing $2.5 billion to prepare, train and recruit high-quality teachers and other school leaders. We know that the best way to ensure that a student succeeds is to have well-trained quality teachers in every classroom. In Minnesota, we’ve always helped lead the nation in our innovative approaches to public education – this law recognizes the work of states like ours.”

Background:

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a bipartisan and comprehensive piece of legislation that attempts to fix many of the issues associated with No Child Left Behind. ESSA ends the policy of ‘school shaming’ that labeled and sanctioned poorly performing schools and then set unrealistic academic goals for them to achieve. 

ESSA will retain annual testing for grades 3 through 8 in reading and mathematics, and once in grades 9-12. ESSA encourages the development of richer, performance-based assessments through the use of multiple measures, which “may include” portfolios and projects.

A preschool development grant program is authorized at $250 million annually. The new program will help states align and coordinate early learning programs.

ESSA makes a lot of changes that address teacher training and professional development. The new legislation eliminates Highly Qualified Teacher requirements, and instead says school districts can use the $2.5 billion in teacher training money to design and implement teacher and principal evaluation systems. 

The new law also stresses local governance. ESSA specifically addresses potential federal reach through non-regulatory means and requires local stakeholders (like school boards) input at the federal level prior to issuing such guidance.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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