SHERIDAN — Wyoming education officials welcomed a new federal accountability law, signed by President Barack Obama on Thursday morning. The new law — the Every Student Succeeds Act — will replace No Child Left Behind and allow for more state and local control.
The praise appeared unanimous.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, who served on the committee that drafted the final version of the bill, welcomed the news.
“For too long now I have heard stories from teachers, students, and parents from all across Wyoming about the harm inflicted by the prep-for-the-test system that has been in place,” Enzi said in a press release. “That ends with the signing of this bill.”
Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow applauded the new accountability measures.
“This legislation gives states the flexibility and authority necessary to be more responsive to the needs of their schools and districts,” Balow said in a press release. “Thanks to ESSA we now have an unprecedented opportunity to increase opportunities for all students while maintaining high accountability.”
The Wyoming Education Association also welcomed the move.
“Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms,” said WEA President Kathy Vetter. “Not only does it reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools, but it decouples high-stakes decisions and statewide testing so students have more time to develop critical thinking, while educators do what they love — inspire a lifelong love of learning.”
Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said the new law is a step in the right direction.
Kobza represented school superintendents at a recent economic development meeting with Balow.
There he discussed challenges school districts faced under the No Child Left Behind regulations.
For example, one provision of the NCLB law required all teachers to have a certain number of college credit hours in the subject they teach. In small districts where the chemistry teacher often doubles as the physics teacher, Kobza said, that’s hard to do.
“It can make it difficult to find teachers for those positions when all those restrictions are in place,” Kobza said.
One challenge Arvada-Clearmont faced under NCLB was the heavy emphasis on test scores and their ability to trigger penalties if insufficient.
“When you’re under 100 kids, it only takes one or two kids for you to not make adequate yearly progress,” Superintendent Charles Auzqui said, referencing an accountability measure the NCLB law used.
Sheridan County School District 2 officials also see the new law as positive. Tom Sachse, assistant superintendent for curriculum, said the district would benefit from increased local control and relief from the increasingly “punitive” measures of NCLB.
“The new legislation puts a lot more authority and responsibility for the use of federal funds in states rather than the federal government level,” Sachse said. “And that’s a good thing for us and a good thing for Wyoming.”
Various components of the new law take effect at different times — some immediately, others on July 1 and others after that.