By Harriet Sanford
President and CEO
The NEA Foundation
The Every Student Succeeds Act is an opportunity to look at what works when it comes to improving teaching and learning.
Now that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is no longer the law of the land, education policymakers at all levels are talking about the importance of a fresh start. The Every Student Succeeds Act—NCLB’s successor—is more than a new name for the law. It’s an opportunity to rethink how educators and school leaders can work together to improve student learning, starting right where such efforts should begin—in the classroom.
While evaluation and other top-down efforts to improve learning have typically focused on the adults in the classroom, we know that the process, when done right, is really aimed at ensuring that all students are taught in ways that help them succeed. For the first time, the new law explicitly allows states to invest in evaluation systems that go beyond ratings and instead provide teachers with “useful and timely feedback” and help to “inform decision-making about professional development and improvement strategies.” The jury’s still out on what these changes will mean, but from our work with forward-thinking districts and teacher unions over the past decade, we know that this approach can put students, not adults, at the center of the discussion.