Leverage Obama’s ESSA to conquer education problems

By Edward Gaston
Columnist the Florida Star
When President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, policy makers and educators saw this as an opportunity to invest in new methods for student success—contrary to the No Child Left Behind Act. But, what about parents and community leaders?
Starting with next school year (2017-18), all provisions of ESSA will go into effect. One critical aspect is that it requires local and state school leaders to create standards that will yield acceptable—and in some cases, exceptional—student academic outcomes, based on specific solutions for their schools. For the community as a whole, supporting everything education is just plain ole common sense.

Without hesitation, educators are professionals who care for the minds, bodies, and spirits of our greatest treasure: our children. Public education remains a game changer for so many parents and students facing the challenges of everyday survival. ESSA requires all hands on deck for each community and with the Every Student Succeeds Act we can conquer problems within the education system. Participating in the process to encourage every student to succeed is an ongoing necessity and investment that must be made by each of us in order for there to be a harvest of success.

So what do we do?

We, community leaders, must stay engaged, provide insight, question, and oversee the local and state selection of the administrators for ESSA initiatives. We, parents, must listen to teacher recommendations on improving learning experiences and keep a special note on our phones or in a folder with feedback. Educators want to teach. They want to guide. We must use ESSA to leverage their desire to see students succeed by having a respectful line of communication which can include texting, emailing, phone messages and in special situations, face to face. Use those responses to push for more resources to come into schools from ESSA and community investors. In fact, every school must be supported with every resource available. From making education a priority for tax payer revenue to churches conditioning their congregations that every adult working in a school are to be applauded, respected and invested in. Local businesses should contact the principal of the community school and request a calendar of the school year. The business should choose to sponsor a breakfast or lunch on teacher planning days and take a moment to explain services and products and offer the educators discounts. Every parent can go beyond the PTA and participate as a judge in the science fair or sign up to volunteer as a chaperone for field trips or reading to the students. Children can never have too many supplies, resources or praise, so the support will be appreciated by the school staff.

The push against public education must stop.
Public education is our national treasure, so are our children and teachers. In the past, too many standardized tests have proven to be ineffective in validating school success. ESSA changes this. Not having to constantly teach to the many tests, will allow educators to teach in a common sense straightforward method, ensuring students are ready to compete. ESSA presents a balanced approach to holding the local school district accountable by encouraging testing managed on the state level. Community leaders, parents, and educators must participate in the state’s process for fairly measuring progress in each school. In some cases, this will include selecting the superintendent, and in other cases, it will involve creating or approving test questions, changing curriculum, or adding arts programs. Votes and voices can now take center stage as local and state officials take a more active role in determining the state of public education. Staying engaged is necessary and essential for choosing the best team of educators who will implement ESSA strategies necessary to propel our children forward. Supporters of public education must require that committed educational leaders offer clear plans that they will execute immediately in order to conquer education problems and position all schools to succeed. The plans should be constantly communicated to the community and measured with sensible, infrequent standardized tests.

President Obama’s Every Student Succeeds Act brings public education back into the national forefront where it belongs. Many people see an eagle and apple pie as the symbol of America. It is time again, to see public education as the national treasure it is. It remains the primary weapon that must be sharpened and polished and used to battle poverty, crime, and inequality. Principals, teachers, custodians, and administrators in schools, especially schools in underserved communities educate children on the front lines and must be uplifted and applauded by a nation committed to protecting and growing the national treasure known as Public Education.

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