New federal education law gives Connecticut once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve public education

Connecticut Education Association News Release

New federal education law gives Connecticut once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve public education

Time is now to work together to ensure that the new law lives up to its name: Every Student Succeeds

December 9, 2015

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) represents a new beginning for students who have suffered too long under Connecticut's failed policies of top-down reform and a broken system where excessive test prep and standardized testing rules the classroom.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, "Students who are high school seniors this year have spent their entire K-12 experience under NCLB or Connecticut's waiver from NCLB, whereby the long arm of the federal government heavily influenced our state's accountability system."

She continued, "Now with ESSA, Connecticut policymakers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to hit the reset button, and rethink, reformulate, and re-envision the truly excellent public education that our children deserve."

As ESSA takes effect in the next school year, there is great potential to ensure that the focus in Connecticut classrooms is on student learning instead of student testing. Whether Connecticut reaches this potential will depend on the extent to which Governor Malloy and state legislators use the opportunity they are being granted by ESSA.

Cohen said, "Connecticut teachers expect change to start with the passage of ESSA. And we want those changes to start now. Connecticut's dedicated teachers will do what we have always done—advocate and mobilize in our buildings, our districts, and at the State Capitol, working together to ensure that the new law lives up to its name and Every Student Succeeds."

The failed experiments of the top-down reform era must go, according to teachers who call on the governor and legislators to act. CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg noted, "Despite the best efforts of legislators to get reform right for our students, the dictates of Connecticut's NCLB waiver brought their own counterproductive programs and roadblocks to high-quality public education for our children. Under NCLB and its waivers over more than a decade, the persistent achievement gap has not closed—a challenge that is paramount to all of us. Fortunately, this new federal legislation offers not only a fresh and innovative start to tackle the achievement gap, but also the opportunity to do the right thing, unencumbered by inappropriate federal mandates."

Waxenberg said, "With the waiver from NCLB that the U.S. Department of Education granted Connecticut, our state's top decision-makers took unproven, experimental approaches to measure student performance, evaluate teachers, and rate schools. These reforms have not evolved positively. Our schools have become test factories. Precious instructional time has been lost to excessive test preparation, testing, and data collection. The joy has been sucked out of teaching and learning. And teachers' authority in classroom decision making has been dramatically diminished."

Cohen emphasized, "The good news is all that can change under ESSA. We commend Connecticut's Congressional delegation for giving Connecticut and other states a dramatic, new chance to help all students succeed with ESSA. This new climate enables Connecticut policymakers to rewrite Connecticut education laws and regulations—with the golden opportunity to be bold, innovative, and lead the nation once again with excellent education for all children."

Cohen added, "Our children have fallen too far behind with so-called reforms that represent anything but opportunities for student success. However, now our children indeed can come out ahead with this new legislation, but only if Connecticut decision-makers take advantage of the opportunity they have been granted."

The Connecticut Education Association represents 43,000 teachers in Connecticut.

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