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Editorial: New programs aim to give every student a chance to succeed

School is in session in Erie and Niagara counties and, as The News recently reported, educational times have changed. The class lesson outline will be written on a whiteboard as opposed to the good old-fashioned blackboard.

There is an even greater emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), high-tech fields and global competition. Technology is making the world smaller, and outsourcing and automation put pressure on today’s students and tomorrow’s workers. Strong STEM skills will help.

STEM morphs into STREAM in some schools by adding other important classes, with the “A” being the arts. In schools in the Buffalo Catholic Diocese, the “R” denotes religion; in other schools it stands for reading.

There is also ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), the federal education policy that replaced No Child Left Behind. That law, signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, led to the controversial Common Core, which was plagued in New York by a flawed rollout and an awkward tie to teacher evaluations.

ESSA reflected a rare bipartisan move by Congress to maintain limited federal oversight of education while allowing states and local districts more power. It was clearly time for the feds to try something new and (hopefully) improved, and this will be the test. If it fails, try something else.

Back in 2014, the State Education Department implemented changes to assist English language learner (ELL) students, which segues into ENL (English as a new language) and MLL (multilingual learners.)

There is a renewed focus on the whole student, and academic intervention and academic intervention services will assist in that effort. Also assisting are response to intervention and community schools programs. Trauma-informed care speaks to the violence children can be exposed to, a sad fact of life this newspaper addressed in a July 30 front-page story, “The wounds nobody sees.”

It is heartening to see recognition that not every child learns in the same way or pace, resulting in differentiated instruction. The same could be said of culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and social emotional learning.

Some of these programs may not survive rigorous analysis. Educational approaches should be evaluated on a regular basis and adjusted when necessary. Sometimes those changes are painful and controversial but, in the end, the goal is to deliver the best results for those who will lead us all into tomorrow.

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