Earlier this month, with strong bipartisan support, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, opening up a new era that moves away from the high-stakes accountability of No Child Left Behind and dramatically alters the federal role in education policy. Among its many provisions, ESSA increases the authority that states and localities will have for decision-making, including offering states flexibility to redesign assessments.
What does this new law mean for pioneers working to bring learner-centered education to life in diverse communities across the United States?
One of the conditions that support the creation of learner-centered learning environments is the existence of enabling policies that offer flexibility and support for experimentation and innovation. By providing states with conditions like these, ESSA is helping set the stage for more and more learner-centered innovations.
What we have learned in seeing the stories of transformation across the country is that learner-centered education will spread through a “pull-from-the bottom,” rather than a “push-from-the top,” approach. There will not be a standardized one-size-fits-all answer to what learner-centered education looks like. And, transformation can only be done by and with communities—not to or for them. Learning communities must be the ones, trusted by and empowered from the top, to design and create environments iteratively to meet the needs and circumstances of their particular learners and have them reach their full potential. And, given the challenge of transforming a complex system, it will require the collaboration, commitment, and ownership of diverse grassroots learner-centered actors—practitioners, parents, learners, funders, administrators, business and union leaders, policy makers, and community members.
These stakeholders will not create in isolation but rather will build upon networks of other pioneers that share the processes, tools, and resources that they have created along their journey towards transformation. For example, the CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network works with state networks to build systems that provide flexibility to localities to put learners at the center. Their Next State of Learning project has developed videos that highlight transformative processes and efforts at the community, district, and state level in Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. As communities see the results achieved by leading states and districts, they will gain strength, guidance, and courage for their own efforts.
Education stakeholders moving forward in the new environment created by ESSA will have more questions than answers. And, as the new law begins to take effect, we look forward to exploring these questions alongside pioneers across the country.
Learn More From KnowledgeWorks
Learn More From Nellie Mae Education Foundation
Learn More From Next Generation Learning Challenges
Learn More From National Association of Elementary School Principals