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Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 7.49.39 AMMany thanks to Sherena Arrington who works with Georgia Senator Ligon for finding this in the federal archives.

The December 2001 Bill Summary from No Child Left Behind when John Boehner was Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee sounds awfully dang familiar. This is what Boehner et al proudly told Americans that law would accomplish:

  • Gives parents report cards on school performance.
  • Sends more dollars to the classroom, with fewer strings attached.
  • Reforms federal K-12 education programs, requiring accountability for results through annual testing to ensure all children are learning.
  • Provides extra help for schools identified as underachieving.
  • Shields teachers, principals and school board members from frivolous lawsuits.
  • Gives new options to parents with children in dangerous or chronically underachieving public schools.
  • Streamlines federal K-12 education programs from 55 to 45.
  • Transforms bilingual education programs to focus on helping LEP children learn English.
  • Triples funding for reading programs proven to work.
  • Increases federal teacher quality aid by 35 percent over last Clinton budget.
  • Expands local control and gives all 50 states and every local school district new freedom and flexibility in the use of federal education dollars.
  • Requires accountability for results through annual testing of students in federally-funded public schools in reading and math in grades 3-8.
  • Focuses on effective, proven methods of reading instruction backed by scientific research.
  • Calls for states to have a highly-qualified teacher in every public classroom by 2005.
  • Strengthens special education by giving new tools to parents of children with special needs, along with new resources to help schools recruit qualified special education teachers and improve early reading instruction.

So what are they telling us are the benefits of the Every Student Succeeds Act?  This is from the S1177 Bill Summary

The Student Success Act offers a better way forward for education reform by:

  • Returning responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts, and parents, while maintaining high expectations.
  • Providing states and school districts greater flexibility to meet students’ unique needs.
  • Investing limited taxpayer dollars wisely.
  • Maintaining and strengthening long-standing protections for state and local autonomy.
  • Ensures parents continue to have the information they need to hold local schools accountable.
  • Eliminates more than 65 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs and replaces this maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, helping schools better support students.
  • Protects state and local autonomy over decisions in the classroom by preventing the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, as well as reining in the secretary’s regulatory authority.
  • Includes requirements for locally developed teacher evaluations, enabling federal teacher policy to move from onerous and meaningless burdens to strategies that will reassure parents that their students’ teachers are effective.
  • Strengthens existing efforts to improve student performance among targeted student populations, including English learners and homeless children.

Alan Singer  in the Huffington Post wrote this about ESSA:

There are three very quick questions I need to ask. (1) In the highly charged partisan politics dividing the United States as it enters a Presidential election year, how can any bipartisan bill be more than a conglomeration of pay-offs that will have very little impact on education or the achievement gap? (2) Why are supporters of the bill pretending that every student is ever suddenly going to succeed and what are they going to succeed at? (3) Will there ever be national discussion of what is important for students to know and why or what is meant by college and career readiness?

I will take issue with the last question. Why does that conversation need to be national? In a country as proudly diverse as America what such a national conversation could produce as consensus is going to be very very limited which would not be a reasonable list of things that we think our children shown learn and know. The other two are spot on and I assume rhetorical.

We know how NCLB worked out. The biggest impetus for writing ESSA was to “finally fix that horrible NCLB.” Secretary Duncan came up with his illegal waivers for NCLB when it became obvious to everyone that the requirements of the law were so unrealistic that not one single state was going to meet them. But if so many of the goals or promises are the same with both bills, why should anyone think that ESSA will turn out to be any better than NCLB did? Were the legislators in DC any less sincere or thorough in their efforts to pass a comprehensive education reform bill in 2001 than they are now? What evidence do we have that this was so? How can we not help thinking of Albert Einstein’s famous quote?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

They may not teach this wise Proverb in school any more, but there are probably enough adult Americans who know it and will be applying it to this situation.

Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you.

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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