On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which updates the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, most recently known as No Child Left Behind. This reform legislation received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and takes important steps to improve the achievement of Latino and English learner (EL) students. But we have more work to do to ensure the law is implemented effectively and prepares students to succeed in college and careers.
Ensuring all kids count
One in four K–12 students in the United States is Latino. The academic success of Hispanic children is crucial for the future of this country. ESSA ensures the following for Latino students and their parents:
- Students must be held to challenging academic standards at a minimum in reading and math.
- Latino student and EL academic progress must be measured and reported annually.
- Action must be taken when students are not succeeding academically.
- New funds are offered for after-school programs.
- Family-school partnerships are promoted through Statewide Family Engagement Centers.
In addition, for the first time states will be required to standardize the process for identifying and placing students in EL programs, as well as the requirements for exiting students from these services, a process called reclassification. If implemented well, these changes will help raise the academic achievement of the nearly five million ELs enrolled in U.S. schools.
ESSA makes other significant improvements for the education of English learners. States must now adopt the following provisions to better track and improve the educational performance of ELs. These include:
- Setting state goals for increases in the percentage of students making progress in achieving proficiency.
- Taking into account English language proficiency for school ratings systems.
- Increasing funding for EL programs.
- Keeping track of ELs with disabilities to ensure their progress.
- Calling for reporting on long-term ELs.