By Sen. John Thune
Parents around the country will tell you that for their children’s success, it’s important to have an effective educational system with teachers and administrators who are accountable to the local community. It’s local control, not big government mandates, that hold the key to efficiently implementing educational plans that work best for kids, because what works for students in New York City might not work well for students in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and vice versa.
For too many years, though, that had been the case: a big-government, one-size-fits-all approach to education. This wasn’t good for teachers, and it wasn’t good for students. With the sweeping education reform bill that was recently signed into law, we will thankfully reverse that trend and return control to the people who know students the best, like their parents, teachers, and local school boards.
We’ve all heard the phrase “teaching to the test,” which was born from the nearly 15-year-old No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy that was intended to boost teacher accountability. After hearing from school districts around the country, it became clear that while accountability has a role in our school systems, it’s also important for school boards to have the flexibility to set and administer standards that meet their own local needs. Ending the NCLB policy was long overdue – after all, more than 40 states were operating under NCLB waivers, which will no longer be necessary under the new law.
Perhaps most importantly, the Every Student Succeeds Act puts an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s bureaucratic Common Core mandate that has been a hotly debated topic for South Dakota teachers and families. Gone are the days of an over-reliance on standardized testing that consumed teachers’ time and frustrated parents and students alike. The long-standing education policy received a failing grade, and I’m glad that states will now be able to determine their own academic standards and assessments without the heavy hand of the national school board that is the U.S. Department of Education getting in the way.
The education reform bill and the changes it will make have been endorsed by teachers, superintendents, school boards, state legislatures, and governors, and according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it “strikes a balance between accountability for the taxpayers’ investment on the one hand, and state and local control on the other.” This is a win for everyone involved and will put students in a better position to succeed.