New Federal Law Allows New Direction for Education
by Roberta Mayor, President Education Institute of Hawaii, 5/22/16 in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Governor Ige was recently criticized in the media for not including the Hawaii DOE Superintendent in his new education task force.
I, for one, cannot fault his decision. The task force is comprised of a large cross section of the community, all of whom have a tremendous stake in the best education for Hawaii’s children.
The new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a huge change that now empowers states and districts to come up with a new education plan to best meet the needs of the students in their schools and communities.
In a March 16, 2016 presentation to the Hawaii Legislature, Stephen Parker of the National Governors’ Association, challenged Hawaii leaders to “be innovative, be bold” as he explained how ESSA provides a new role for state governors in federal education policy.
The Hawaii DOE’s response to ESSA, signed into law last December, has been to determine how the DOE can get into compliance with the new law’s regulations.
Don’t they see the tremendous opportunity the law provides to depart from previously imposed restrictions on Hawaii’s schools?
Community voices are only now being solicited by the DOE on its 2012-2018 Strategic Plan, which was developed under the federal mandates of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.
The governor’s task force, on the other hand, is being asked to be bold and visionary, to start with a clean slate, to determine what education ought to look like in 20 years or 50 years.
The new law was supported in Congress by bi-partisan legislators and governors across the nation.
ESSA rescinds many of the federal mandates imposed on the states under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and is, in fact, a push back to the federal government’s audacity to dictate how education should be conducted nation-wide with the same standards, same curriculum and same assessments, and how schools and educators who didn’t “measure up” on these assessments were to be punished.
President Obama, in signing the ESSA law, acknowledged that the “cookie-cutter” approach to education under former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, doesn’t always work.
The new Secretary of Education, John B. King, in his first public speech in his new role, apologized to the nation’s educators for the many years of federal mandates on education. Senator Lamar Alexander, the architect of ESSA, said we need to take the handcuffs off of schools.
Governor Ige is taking the necessary leadership role for our state to determine how best to educate Hawaii’s children.
It can only be beneficial to have many stakeholders thinking creatively about what is needed to effectively educate Hawaii’s children. This is too important an issue to do otherwise.
There will be ample opportunity for those who want to weigh in to be heard. Both the DOE and the governor’s ESSA task force will need to meld all community input and together develop an education blueprint for the future that all of Hawaii can whole-heartedly support.
Dr. Roberta Mayor is Board President of the Education Institute of Hawaii, an organization committed to improving education in Hawaii through greater empowerment of local schools. She has worked in the Hawaii and California school systems as a teacher, principal and superintendent.