ND educators celebrate "Every Student Succeeds Act" implementation

Sep 21, 2018

Mandan Schools assistant Superintendent Jeff Fastnacht.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

North Dakota education professionals say since the federal “No Child Left Behind” act was replaced by the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” there’s a new attitude and new energy in the classroom.

Critics of “No Child Left Behind” called it punitive in nature, basing measures of success solely on test scores. They said the ESSA replacement focuses on the whole child and how the students learn.

"When I go around the state and talk to teachers, there's a new attitude," said North Dakota United president Nick Archuleta. "They're really appreciative of the fact we've gotten rid of 'No Child Left Behind.' It's great to see that in the rear-view mirror."

"For 14 years, I think we lost our way," said Mandan Assistant School Superintendent Jeff Fastnacht. He is on the committee that wrote the new plan.

Fastnacht says educators now have an opportunity to say it’s about the whole student.

"If we raise kids that can do very well on a test, but can't get along with others, we've failed," Fastnacht said. "If we raise a kid who does well on the math assessment, but doesn't know where they're going, we messed up. If we find a kid who does well on tests, but doesn't have the skills to be successful in the workforce, we didn't do that kid any good."

Fastnacht said in the classrooms, teachers were always doing what's best for kids.

"But the fog of 'No Child Left Behind,' the accountability, the bad report cards, clouded our vision," Fastnacht said.

The focus of the plan is to have students be “choice ready” – to prepare them for college or the workforce after high school graduation.

Archuleta said the new ESSA encourages communities to own the education of their own students.

"It puts the responsibility for education closer to where it does the most good," Archuleta said. "People who are going to evaluate children are the same folks who know those children's names, not some bureaucrat in Washington. That's a good sign."

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler said North Dakota’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act will be a “living and breathing” plan that can be modified to fit local educational needs.