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Reauthorization of ESEA

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dear District Administrators,

This morning, President Obama signed into law a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We are supportive of the legislation’s overall goals and sees the legislation as an opportunity to focus on the issue of equity in our schools.  Having a federal law that allows state leaders to advance local policies designed to best educate their students while maintaining flexibility and a focus on the vital efforts of accountability and equity is critical.  Moreover, the legislation allows states to explore different methods, centered on their needs, to tackle achievement gaps, which will help ensure that all students graduate ready for college and career.

Previously referred to as No Child left Behind (NCLB), the newly reauthorized ESEA is being referred to as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  This new law makes many changes to key programs that we administer.  States, however, will be given a transition period to work through these changes with much of the new  law going into effect in the 2017-18 school year.    We will continue to review the law in depth and will keep you posted on new information as we move forward. At this point, we believe the changes made to the law are positive and will not impede the work this agency and school districts have undertaken over the last several years including higher expectations, meaningful state assessments, robust data systems, school accountability, and educator effectiveness.     

The legislation includes certain specific timelines to guide transition and implementation of up to 18 months in areas of identifying schools in need of improvement and the need for interventions. We will work with stakeholders across the state through a period of adjustment to make implementation work for Wisconsin students, educators, and families. We plan to take full advantage of more state  flexibility provided in the law to improve student learning while giving local schools more flexibility and authority.

If you would like information on what is contained in ESSA, there is a relatively short narrative summary produced by the conference committee that summarizes the changes.  For those of you who want to dig into the 1,000 plus pages of the bill itself, it is available here.  A recent press release from the State Superintendent can be found here.