Obama Changes The Game For Education — Why The New K-12 Bill Is So Important

Obama Changes The Game For Education — Why The New K-12 Bill Is So Important

The new K-12 bill is crucial for our schools.
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On Dec. 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed a very important bill for the American education system; the Every Student Succeeds Act is the new K-12 education law for the country after Congress rewrote the No Child Left Behind Act.

Why is this so important? First of all, just look at the difference in the names of the two laws; No Child Left Behind has a whole different meaning and connotation than Every Student Succeeds. In the newest education bill, all students are expected to achieve, meaning no matter their socioeconomic status, race, gender, ethnicity or where they live, each individual student will succeed.

In one of my education classes, we discussed the importance of teachers holding equal expectations for all students. Students will live up to the teachers’ expectations, meaning if a teacher does not believe a student can complete a task such as reading aloud to the class, then the student will perceive this expectation and live up to it. Setting different expectations for each student is setting those students up for failure. Unfortunately, this is the sad truth in many classrooms nationwide, but the Every Student Succeeds Act is exactly what this country needs.

As an elementary education major and future school teacher, the education system is something I am beginning to understand better, but there is one aspect that particularly upsets me. Public schools are funded by property taxes and test scores, which does not sound so bad right? Well, you're wrong.

A school in an upper-class neighborhood is better than a school in a lower-class one because the property taxes in the upper-class neighborhood are higher and therefore, more can be given to schools. Tax-wise it makes sense, but that does not mean it is okay for the schools. Although the children living in the upper-class neighborhoods go to great schools with extraordinary teachers, the children who live in low-income areas do not get the same opportunities or resources. And that, my friends, is what upsets me.

I mean, how are you going to tell a small child that because of where they live, their school is considered worse off than another school? Federal funding of schools is definitely an issue in this country, but luckily, the new Every Student Succeeds Act will help transform the old education system based on high-stakes test scores into one that promotes the success of all schools.

One of the issues of the NCLB was the way in which schools received funding based on high-stakes standardized tests. If students did not meet the federal requirement in terms of test scores, then that school did not receive as much federal funding as it would have with the appropriate scores, and other federal sanctions were placed on the school too. It was this type of accountability system that has plagued our education system and led many schools to over-test students in hopes to get the scores needed to succeed.

States and school districts were creating and administering dozens or even hundreds of extra tests to ensure that they were on track for all students to perform well on the annual test required by the law and the teacher evaluation mandate in the waivers. This outcome is almost expected because the annual test became almost a death penalty moment for schools — if you didn’t perform according to the plan, you faced severe federal sanctions. NCLB became a “punish your way to success” accountability system.

Under ESSA, each state has more freedom to create an accountability system for schools that does not have to be primarily based on testing. Each state is required to have “test results, graduation rates, English proficiency and another measure of school quality or student success in its accountability system,” but this other measure does not have to relate or even involve testing.

Another subject the new K-12 law mentions is teacher evaluations. States can now choose to keep the old teacher evaluation system, eliminate it completely or implement a new one. There is no more federal government involvement in teacher evaluations, and the decision to keep, change or create a system of teacher evaluations is entirely up to the states and school districts.

The third major topic of the ESSA is how states now identify the lowest-performing five percent of schools every three years, and each state will decide what to do to improve these schools using their new accountability systems. Under NCLB, schools in the lowest five percent were forced to close, convert to charters, teachers and principals were fired, and other federal sanctions occurred, but not anymore.

It is now for the state — and not Washington, D.C — to decide what to do about these schools that are struggling with improving student achievement.

Essentially, the Every Student Succeeds Act gives more authority to the states in terms of their schools, and promotes an education system that will benefit the nation and all of its students.

“Every student can learn, just not on the same day or in the same way.”

Cover Image Credit: http://bit.ly/20p9H9w

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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