In the latest attempt to erase elements from the Obama legacy, the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump are passing bills targeting parts of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) . After narrowly passing the Senate, President Trump signed two bills that rolled back guidelines for holding schools accountable and ensuring novice teachers are highly trained and effective.
Trump hailed the bills as “removing an additional layer of bureaucracy to encourage freedom in our schools."
However, removing accountability measures for teachers and schools would be especially harmful to students of color in impoverished communities as well as to students with disabilities and who are English language learners. They are our most vulnerable children.
The Higher Education Act, in particular, sought to address the fact that students of color in low-income communities are disproportionately taught by novice teachers when compared to their counterparts. On average, students of color attend schools and are taught by teachers who have been teaching for fewer than three years. Now removed from the ESSA, the Higher Education Act would have measured and set standards for the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs to ensure program quality and training for teachers to address teacher equity issues.
Now, it will be up solely left up to schools to make sure that school ensure that teachers, regardless of tenure receive the best training to support the populations of students they serve and hold themselves accountable to the educational success of all children no matter which demographic category in which they fall.
It should go without saying, that schools should hold themselves responsible for the success of every student. But that notion is neither a reality or a focus in every school. Some schools, school districts, need regulations to ensure they do the right thing for kids. Some of the main provisions in the ESSA like the two now eliminated provided doing what is best for kids was the default.
Without these particular mandates, we could very well see learning gaps widen and student achievement plateau. In attempting to create a sense of “freedom” for schools, the Trump administration created barriers for students of color. The necessity for provisions in the ESSA to ensure accountability points to the fact that certain populations of students are still underserved and inequities in education still exist. Student success through educational equity should be both the mandate of all schools and the mindset of all leaders, including President Trump.