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Superintendent praises Every Student Succeeds Act

It will likely be business as usual in the Mitchell School District, despite a new education law that abandons much of the No Child Left Behind law. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Thursday after the Senate passed the Every Stu...

It will likely be business as usual in the Mitchell School District, despite a new education law that abandons much of the No Child Left Behind law.

President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Thursday after the Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act on Wednesday in an 85-12 vote. While Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves believes the law is an improvement over No Child Left Behind, he doesn't expect teachers or students will feel the change's impact.

"I doubt that there will be much they'll be able to notice," Graves said. But Graves praised major aspects of the new measure, mainly the reduction of federal government power over local school districts. Under the newly passed law, states would decide how to hold schools accountable to maintaining quality standardized test results. Graves said the law returns flexibility to the states rather than utilizing a "one-size-fits-all" set of national standards, and South Dakota's Secretary of Education Melody Schopp agrees.

"We are pleased with the decision to put more control of education policy back in the hands of state and local school districts where it belongs," Schopp said. By reducing federal oversight of education, states will have to find a replacement accountability method, and Schopp said her department will investigate opportunities within the law to boost state and local decision-making

Because South Dakota currently has a public school accountability system based on three components, Graves said the state could take no further action regarding accountability and remain in good standing.

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The first component of the existing accountability system focuses on high quality academic standards and assessments for English language arts, math and literacy in history and social studies as established by the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

The second principle of the accountability program aims to answer questions about student attendance, achievement, academic growth and college readiness, which are answered through annual data reporting and a school performance index that grades public schools on several success indicators. The last principle measures the state's teacher and administrator effectiveness.

Like Graves and Schopp, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds also offered support for returning accountability oversight to states and local districts. Rounds called the overhaul of the No Child Left Behind law, which had been in effect for 14 years, long overdue.

Rounds said the issues with No Child Left Behind were evident when he served as South Dakota's governor, and commended the bipartisan accomplishment. Although Graves said many Mitchell students and teachers may not notice an immediate impact, he said there are underlying benefits to scaling back federal regulation. Graves said a limited federal role in education allows individual states the opportunity to apply different accountability procedures.

With 50 different programs in place, South Dakota would have the chance to look at the other 49 states' accountability measures to find potential areas of improvement.

"When you have a national system, you really don't have that kind of experimentation, so it really is a healthier model to have 50 educational systems operating rather than one," Graves said.

With the law approved on Thursday afternoon, Graves said more changes included in the ESSA could arise that he hadn't previously forecast.

"The law is one thing, and the implementation can sometimes be another," Graves said.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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