It remains to be seen, of course, how John B. King Jr., the new acting U.S. Education Secretary, will perform compared to his predecessor, Arne Duncan. But, whether he likes it or not, he won’t be as test-happy, thanks to the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The new law, which replaced No Child Left Behind, encourages states and school districts to reduce the role of high-stakes testing and prohibits the education secretary from mandating that teachers be evaluated based on test scores.
King, who has been making something of a get-acquainted tour around the country, addressed testing and teacher evaluations at a recent teacher town hall meeting in Philadelphia. According to Education Week, he said the new federal law gives states and school districts a “fresh start” and a “much-needed do-over” on the issue of using student outcomes to evaluate educators.
Under No Child Left Behind and Arne Duncan, student outcomes included test scores, which also are part of a teacher evaluation model (T-TESS) proposed by the Texas Education Agency. But King pointed out that state tests don’t have to be part of an evaluation system, and he urged state policymakers to work with teachers to change appraisal systems that aren’t working.
“Teachers were not always adequately engaged by policymakers in the development of new systems,” King said.
ESSA gives educators an opportunity to change that. Now, it is up to educators to seize the challenge.