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Our Take

What the New Education Reform Bill Means for College Readiness

Written by EOD’s Program and Operations Intern, Jeff McGuire

On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the first education reform legislation since the widely controversial No Child Left Behind was signed into law in January 2002. Educators across the country have been calling for comprehensive education reform for years, and ESSA seems to be an answer to their calls.

Much has been made of the new 391-page bill – which can be found here – primarily its bipartisan nature and the restrictions on the role of the federal government in education. The ESSA leaves major decisions up to the states regarding most academic standards and how schools will meet those standards.

Whether or not the bill meets everyone’s expectations, it nevertheless has some important and meaningful implications for those of us working in the College Readiness space. Here are some highlights of the bill that we at Education Opens Doors think are steps in the right direction, to assure more students are being taught the skills necessary to navigate through middle school and high school to college:

  • The new law orders – for the first time ever – that states must develop standards to make students “college and career-ready.”
  • When schools do not meet college readiness standards, states will be required to intervene.
  • Standardized testing will remain important, but states will also be able to implement their own factors in how to access student performance. “College Knowledge” could have a place in this part of the bill.
  • Data from testing will be broken up by students’ race, income, and disability status. States will be able to respond to inequality in results with their own methods, as opposed to a federal penalties that existed under No Child Left Behind.
  • ESSA is more specific on what requirements a school must meet to avoid intervention. This has positive implications on maintaining high standards for our students.
  • However, when a school does need intervention, states have much more leeway in deciding what that “intervention” will entail, removing some of the most disliked portions of No Child Left Behind: harsh punishments and dire choices for administrators that put increased pressure on teachers.

Education reform in the U.S. has been much needed for many years now. ESSA is a welcome step in the right direction. Still, we at EOD believe there is significant work to be done, primarily in the recognition of “College Knowledge” as an integral part of every student’s education. ESSA will only begin to take effect in the 2017-18 school year, and it will behoove communities and schools to look at organizations such as EOD for guidance on best practices in working to improve College Readiness. This is why we will continue to work with our partner sites and teachers to fill the gaps left by traditional curriculum, all to ultimately fulfill our vision of turning all students’ college aspirations a reality.

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