Focus on Education:  The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

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By Alan Addley, Ed. D.
In November, the nation celebrated American Education Week. The first observance of American Education Week occurred back in 1921, with a resolution for: “An educational week… observed in all communities annually for the purpose of informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.” Annually, in the spirit of that original resolution, we opened up our school doors during the week to the community to showcase and celebrate the dedicated hard work of our staff in making Granby Public Schools such a great school system.
American Education Week is always celebrated around Thanksgiving – the perfect time to give thanks for the dedicated staff, talented students and supportive community that make Granby Public Schools so special.
The week also provided an excellent opportunity to thank the countless citizens of Granby for their involvement and support. Examples of the community’s commitment and support of education include the excellent leadership of our Board of Education that recently received The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education as a Board of Distinction Level Two Leadership Award for working effectively together in support of public education. The recent renovation of Kelly Lane School is another example whereby town officials and Building Committee members volunteered their time and wisdom to provide our students and community with an on-time, under-budget, excellent school facility. Examples such as these also provide our students with excellent models on how to engage civilly in the democratic process for the benefit of others.
Granby students are fortunate enough to be able to access a high quality education, but the American Education Week’s resolution to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting the needs of all students is not a guarantee for all Connecticut students. In Connecticut, the scope of this problem can perhaps be most evident in the inner cities. For example, currently, three of our biggest cities (Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven) are presently without superintendent leadership and they face significant financial and governance issues. Connecticut also continues to exhibit one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation.
In an effort to provide a quality education and to improve outcomes for all students across the nation, in December of 2015, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESEA has always been a civil rights bill that was first signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson who believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal”. The most recent version of the law is known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The new bipartisan ESSA replaces NCLB whose prescriptive accountability system and implementation became increasingly unworkable for schools.
ESSA is marketed as affording states greater flexibility and encourages states and schools to innovate while maintaining a focus on accountability, state and local systems of improvement and a more balanced assessment system. As with most things, the devil will be in the details in how Connecticut seeks to use the flexibility and the capacity of the state to support the Connecticut State Department of Education’s (CSDE) plan.
ESSA requires states to develop and submit a consolidated state plan to the U.S. Department of Education. To ensure that Connecticut’s ESSA state plan reflects priorities and needs of educators, students and communities, the CSDE is soliciting feedback from all stakeholders via a Connecticut ESSA Stakeholder Survey.
The survey gathers feedback from the public regarding key policy questions concerning Connecticut’s transition to the ESSA. The CSDE will consider constituents’ input as it drafts Connecticut’s state plan to implement the new law. You may access the survey at I encourage you to have your voice heard by taking the brief survey as Connecticut strives to ensure that all students have access to a high quality education that prepares them for success in college, career and life. 
Finally, at this time of year, on behalf of the school system, I wish all of our families an enjoyable holiday season and Happy New Year!