Ybarra, school groups welcome new federal education law

State schools chief Sherri Ybarra and Idaho education leaders are welcoming a newly passed federal education law to replace No Child Left Behind.

Sherri Ybarra
Sherri Ybarra

Ybarra, in her first year as superintendent of public instruction, joined leaders of the Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators and Idaho School Boards Association in offering initial praise for the lengthy new Every Student Succeeds Act.

“I just want to applaud Congress taking a step in the right direction by giving flexibility and stability to the states,” Ybarra said Wednesday.

Other education leaders said it was past time for Congress to replace the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act law.

IEA President Penni Cyr said teachers had a number of concerns about No Child Left Behind, including the Adequate Yearly Progress compliance mandates and high-stakes testing. Cyr traveled to Washington, D.C., and worked with the National Education Association to push for passage of ESSA, meeting with Idaho’s congressional delegation.

“This is a huge step away from No Child Left Behind,” Cyr said. “It doesn’t solve every problem, but it moves us a long way away from the test-and-punish regime we were living under with No Child Left Behind.”

Echeverria
Karen Echeverria

Idaho School Boards Association executive director Karen Echeverria said her organization is still trying to sift through the law’s details. However, she said the early assessments are encouraging.

“We are pleased with the state control,” she said. “Essentially, this bill grants (authority) to states, as opposed to federal oversight. That is the part we obviously work on the most — local control issues.”

With the move away from federally mandated accountability, Idaho Association of School Administrators executive director Rob Winslow sees a chance for the state to lead in areas of success and student achievement.

“What I see is an opportunity… to move more into personalized learning opportunities and individualized education,” Winslow said. “As a state, maybe we can look at more pathways for people instead of saying, ‘Everyone had to have this test score.’”

Until August, Idaho will remain bound to its No Child Left Behind waiver, which the state negotiated with the federal government. The 2016-17 school year will be a transitional period, Ybarra said.

Under the new law, Idaho will still have to administer statewide tests in third through eighth grades, and once in high school. The move away from federal control does not mean Idaho will abandon accountability, Ybarra said.

“We never stop working with schools and never stop intervening with schools to help them improve,” Ybarra said. “We will still have standards and still have tests and still have accountability.”

President Obama signed the bill into law Dec. 10 after it easily cleared both chambers of Congress. The law enjoyed bipartisan support, but U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, was the only member of the Gem State’s congressional delegation to support it. U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador and U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo all voted no.