New teaching format passes national level

South Dakota senators John Thune and Mike Rounds are applauding the passage of the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015, a bill that updates the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation that was signed into effect in early 2002. New Underwood Superintendent George Seiler notes that while this bill does take power from the federal government and give it back to the state and local governments, parents and students can expect to see little change in the practical application of the legislation, at least for the 2015-16 school year. 

Annual testing of students and some form of annual teacher evaluation will be retained under the ECAA. However, rewards and sanctions attached to the annual testing will come from the state, not from the federal government. The ECAA also strengthens measures that bar the federal government from establishing a particular curriculum, test, or set of standards, putting the power to determine these educational elements in the hands of the state. This means that states have the ability to opt out of participating in the Common Core standards that caused a great deal of fervor when they were implemented last year. 

According to Seiler, the South Dakota state legislature could decide in the next legislative session to adopt a new set of state educational standards. Seiler said he hopes South Dakota does not choose to completely walk away from the Common Core standards, since any change in standards requires a great deal of work for educators as they first determine new standards, then have to learn the new standards and apply them in the classroom.

The ECAA also does away with the requirement that all teachers be highly qualified. This is an advantage for schools facing teacher shortages, because it allows schools to pull in experienced people from the community who might not have a teaching degree but who are qualified to teach in a certain subject area. For instance, if a school needs a business teacher, the school would be able to find a qualified businessperson in the community to fill the position, even if that person is not certified as a teacher, Seiler said.

Another change in the ECAA from NCLB is that music and art were recognized in the Act as core subjects. This emphasis differs from recent years, when mathematics, science and English language arts were seen as core, and music and art programs suffered cuts to their budgets as schools worked to improve performance in the areas that were addressed in the annual tests. 

The Pioneer Review

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Philip, SD 57567
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