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On Dec. 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), reauthorizing the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Since 2001, states have been operating under the ESEA amendment known as No Child Left Behind, which expired in 2007 but had never been updated or reauthorized.

No Child Left Behind created a series of unattainable measures by which to grade student success and student performance, eventually requiring 100 percent of students to be proficient on an annual standardized test.

Every Student Succeeds rolls back those requirements and instead will give states the ability to develop their own accountability plans. The new law places a stronger emphasis on child wellbeing, and recognizes that one high-stakes test is not a reasonable way to measure performance.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction will now dig into the new education law, line by line, to develop a strategy for moving forward. This process will take time, and school leaders, parents and students should not anticipate noticeable changes during this window.

"For the first time in more than a decade, Montana educators will have a seat at the table in developing an education accountability and achievement model that will work for Montana students," Superintendent Juneau said. "Now the real work begins as we build upon the programs and ideas that have resulted in Montana's highest-ever graduation rate."

Every Student Succeeds will

  • Eliminate the federally-mandated school-grading system known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and will allow states to develop their own accountability measures.
  • Still require an annual statewide assessment in grades 3-8 and once in high school, but it will no longer be the only measure of school and student success.
  • Include ongoing support for the Preschool Development Grant, giving more children access to free, quality preschool.
  • Integrate School Improvement Grant funding under Title I, giving states the same amount of annual funding, with greater flexibility on how to use the money.
  • Include a literacy program that will build on the success Montana's Striving Readers program has developed.

The Office of Public Instruction will be required to submit its new accountability plan to the U.S. Department of Education for its approval. Any new accountability plan wouldn't take effect until the 2017/2018 school year.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has created this helpful side-by-side comparison of No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds.

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