By Sharon Tomiko Santos
For Northwest Asian Weekly
I’m extremely pleased that Congress has finally approved a rewrite of the badly broken No Child Left Behind law. While the federal government certainly has a role to play in K-12 education, the newly-adopted Every Student Succeeds Act recognizes that education policy should be largely driven at the state and local levels.
States need flexibility in order to adopt policies that work best in our unique communities. The previous policy not only lacked flexibility, but it relied too heavily on punitive measures as a means to improve student performance. As we all observed over the last decade, No Child Left Behind is a poorly considered federal policy that focuses on student failure and school punishment. This is no way to run a public education system. Gone are the days when the federal government can use the threat of funding cuts to coerce states into adopting policies that don’t best meet the needs of students.
The bipartisan ESSA will give states and local school districts the flexibility they need to create accountability systems that work best to meet the needs in their communities and provide opportunities to learn for all students. It also ends the over-reliance on high-stakes testing. Students will spend more time in classrooms learning and less time taking tests.
I’m also pleased that the ESSA will use innovative grant programs to help improve low-performing schools. Federal policymakers tried the stick approach for over a decade and that didn’t work. I’m optimistic that offering a few carrots will give us better results.
The new federal policy is much more in line with how we approach K-12 education policy in this Washington: student-centered and success focused. The new approach will ultimately lead to better educational outcomes for students.
I’d like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to our senior senator from Washington state, Sen. Patty Murray, who took on this monumental effort. I don’t believe this bill ends up on the president’s desk without her leadership and dedication to solving this problem. (end)
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle) is chair of the Washington State House Education Committee.