Oklahoma Cited as a Leader in Transition to New Federal Education Law

Oct 24, 2016

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Oklahoma is among the leaders halfway through the transition to new federal education law.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 10, 2015, and all U.S. schools must comply for the 2017–2018 school year.

"Oklahoma is our shining model that's taking place right now and what they're doing to get it right for their students," said National Education Association President Lily Eskelen-Garcia. "It's not easy. It's not perfect."

ESSA returns several controls to states that the federal government assumed under No Child Left Behind. Oklahoma education officials say work with state lawmakers to pass bills on student testing and teacher evaluations put Oklahoma on the right path.

Donna Harris-Aikens with the National Education Association said Oklahoma has involved not just teachers, but also parents and school support staff in talks about how to implement ESSA's provisions.

"We're talking to all of our members about ESSA and making sure their voices are in the room, because everyone who has responsibility for educating kids should have a voice in this conversation," Harris-Aikens said.

One provision of ESSA allows local officials to develop school improvement plans, something now required by Oklahoma law. Sky Ranch Elementary Principal Amy Braun said teachers at one school came up with a plan covering topics from how poverty affects the brain to using technology to better engage students.

"So, imagine the possibilities of all of our teachers in Oklahoma being able to dream and having the power to direct their own teaching and learning to actually improve student achievement," Braun said.

ESSA also reduces the standardized testing burden.