The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into effect to help narrow the achievement gap between students, especially those most in need of support: students of color, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Eric Westervelt of the NPR Ed Team conducted a Q&A with Pedro Noguera, professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles and director of the Center for the Study of School Transformation, to explore how he thinks the ESSA will affect underserved students.
First, Noguera feels the ESSA will not help narrow the achievement gap as much as lawmakers hope it will. He attributes this to inequalities children face outside of school – such as gaps in access to health care and good housing – which will not be addressed by just improving schools.
Similar to what Lyndon B. Johnson had in mind when he passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Noguera advocates that inequality can be remedied if schools take a holistic approach to improvement. Johnson was aiming to compensate for the effects of poverty on students on a broad scale and Noguera suggests the nation refocus its efforts on improving both schools and addressing poverty because “poverty is the academic issue that holds many children behind.” However, providing holistic support for students will require additional services. According to Noguera, this will be easier to accomplish with leaders who “recognize [that] the needs of children can’t be compartmentalized.” Leaders will have to work across different industries in order to provide comprehensive wrap-around support for students. He also suggests this be tackled at the local level as opposed to the state level.
In addition, this holistic approach to equity cannot be the sole responsibility of the school system. It will require buy-in from the community, particularly from middle- and upper-class parents. To get this buy-in, Noguera urges promoting that having an educated society is in the best interest of everyone.
To read the Q&A in its entirety, click here.