Missourians react to education law rewrite

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JEFFERSON CITY - President Barack Obama signed an education law Thursday that replaces No Child Left Behind of 2002. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives more decision-making power to the states, and encourages states to limit the time students spend on testing. 

Missourians reacted to the change and members of several teachers' associations told KOMU 8 News they supported it. 

Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) spokesperson David Luther said it is one of the biggest education moves in the last 25 years.

Luther said the first thing that is going to have to happen is that DESE and other education associations across the state will have to look at the new law. He said it's expansive. 

In a MASA statement, the organization highlighted details of the new law: 

  • States and school districts still have to test 95 percent of their students. However, failure to reach that threshold does not automatically result in failure for the district. Instead, states and LEAs must determine what happens to schools that are affected by low test participation. 
  • ESSA strips federal requirements of “highly qualified teachers” and allows for states to adopt their own teacher evaluation system. There is no federal requirement as to how much emphasis must be placed on student performance within the state level teacher evaluation system.
  • States must adopt their own accountability system. In elementary and middle school, the system must contain the following three indicators: 
    a. proficiency on state tests;
    b. English language proficiency;
    c. and one additional academic factor that must be broken out by subgroup. 
  • For high schools, the accountability system must contain the following four indicators
    a. graduation rate;
    b. proficiency on state tests;
    c. English language proficiency;
    d.and one additional academic factor that must be broken out by subgroup. 

The law also makes it so the federal government cannot mandate or incentivize schools for adhering to certain national standards, like Common Core. 

A DESE spokesperson told KOMU 8 News it was still going through the logistics of the new law. 

“After a preliminary review of the proposed version of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we are pleased to see the return of more state control over education. What we know now leads us to believe that the legislation will allow Missouri to continue implementing a statewide system of support for schools," DESE Communications Director Nancy Bowles said. "Missouri is well-positioned to lead local education systems – and therefore Missouri students – to success through our homegrown systems. With the successful reauthorization of this long-overdue law, we will focus on what works for children in our state."

Missouri State Teacher Association spokesman Todd Fuller said Missourians were frustrated with the amount of testing. 

"Not just teachers but a lot of parents around Missouri and the United States as a whole were getting frustrated with the number of tests that students were being required to take in a school year," Fuller said. 

"Who better knows about their schools than those who are working in them or who are serving them in some capacity, so we feel good about that," Luther said. 

Luther said there will still be testing in English and math between third and eighth grades and the high school level. 

"I know there's a push for a reduction of testing. I think education associations across the state will look at how we can do that," Luther said. 

Luther and Fuller both said No Child Left Behind was a flawed bill. 

"No Child Left Behind was really a flawed bill, a flawed law, and the fact that we have bipartisan folks working on this, we feel like this is going to be a good thing for education," Luther said.

Changes will not come until the 2017-2018 school year.