Seizing the Opportunity to Rewrite the Rules

Congratulations! Take a bow! You’ve won a victory against government over-regulation!

In late 2015, President Obama signed into law the replacement for the much-despised No Child Left Behind Act. As most of you know, the new law – the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – calls for a course correction. ESSA still requires some testing, but turns back much more control to states and local districts. It sets targets for total time spent on testing, while eliminating redundant and unnecessary tests.

It’s high time! Standardized testing has overwhelmed students and teachers alike for years.
A 2015 study found that a typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade! The heaviest load falls on 8th graders, who spend an average of 25.3 hours a year taking standardized tests. Good grief!

Some districts around the country revolted. California did away with its high school graduation test in 2015. Ditto for Minnesota, Mississippi, Alaska, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

But now let’s ask the tough question: What do we do now?

How will we, as educators, structure, monitor and evaluate student learning and progress?
One way forward – and one I advocate – is to begin candid conversations with our school boards, colleagues and parents. Let’s sort things out. Let’s talk, really listen to each other, and start working together to create standards which represent the unique DNA of a school, a district and a state.

The future of education is back in our hands. Let’s involve our communities in the process. Let’s recognize our own limits and reach out to those who have the information we need. Let’s not mess this up, and huddle behind closed doors guessing on new approaches and mandates.

The reason we’re forced to rework education legislation every few years is because we’re bandaging a broken system.

What should matter to all of us are our students. All of us have the opportunity to collaborate, share what works and what doesn’t, and advocate for students once and for all.

Let’s build a 21st- century model of education. Let’s explore a radically new way forward. Let’s rewrite the rule book.

Scary? Sure. But exciting, too!

So let’s get busy—our students are depending on us.


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2 comments

Could not agree more with your assessment! The question now becomes, you have control now what are you going to control? I am excited to see how Ohio and our LEA's roll this 21 Century mindset out.

Thank you for your comment. This will be a critical time for districts to take a step back and reevaluate how things have been done. It’s an opportunity to redesign and focus on the future.