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Alexander: Tennessee, Louisiana, New Mexico Are Making the Most of New Education Law by Designing Innovative Plans

Says the law to fix No Child Left Behind put states back in the driver’s seat for decisions on how to help their students

WASHINGTON, October 3 — At the Senate education committee hearing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that “Tennessee, Louisiana, and New Mexico have taken the most advantage of the flexibility we offered under the law in creating innovative state plans.”  

“When President Obama signed our bill fixing No Child Left Behind, he called it a ‘Christmas miracle.’ I said that I hoped we were ‘unleashing a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement – one that recognizes that the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability is classroom by classroom, and state  by state – and not through Washington, D.C.,’” said Alexander. “ESSA put states back in the driver’s seat for decisions on how to help their students.”

Governor Haslam said last October, “We are on a long journey. We’ve done the hard work of raising expectations, investing more in education and letting our teachers and students show us what they can do, and again and again, our students and teachers are stepping up to the challenge.”

Alexander today said, “In my opinion, Tennessee has once again stepped up to that challenge.”

“The Every Student Succeeds Act is a historic piece of legislation because it represented that we can reach a bipartisan consensus on a topic of considerable differences – elementary and secondary education. That consensus was: Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states what to do about that progress.”

Alexander continued: “Despite a new law, a new administration, and Congress overturning an Obama-era accountability provision that did exactly what Congress told the department not to do, this has been a smooth process for states. As the department continues approving state plans, I look forward to seeing ways other states are taking advantage of the freedom to innovate under ESSA.”

The chief state school officers from Tennessee, Louisiana, and New Mexico testified at this morning’s hearing. These three states are among the first of 14 states -- 15 including the District of Columbia -- that have had their Title I plans approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Alexander offered examples of the innovative approaches these three states are taking, saying: “For example, Tennessee’s plan includes a “Ready Graduate Indicator,” which demonstrates students’ readiness for more than just college after high school. If you’re a student who’s planning to join the military or workforce after graduation, this indicator shows the state you’re prepared. Louisiana has developed a career education initiative and a diverse course program, which means school districts will be able to offer students more career and technical preparation, advanced coursework, and dual enrollment.  After listening to teachers, school districts and parents, New Mexico has included robust student services in their plan. If you’re a parent of a child who needs early education programs or extra math help, this means they’ll be able to access those services.” 

The Senate education committee unanimously passed the legislation to fix No Child Left Behind in April 2015. In December 2015, ESSA was passed by Congress and signed into law. Alexander was the lead Republican sponsor. ESSA ends federal interference in state standards and ends the federal mandates on states to adopt the Common Core State Standards.

Alexander’s full prepared remarks here: