Educators at White House event witness historic turning point for students

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by Brian Washington

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Today, Mary Jo Bremner, a Montana high school teacher, and Sabrina Peacock, a third grade math teacher from North Carolina, got to witness history.

Both Bremner and Peacock were at the White House today when President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that is replacing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind.

In my mind, other people get to see things like this, not me,” said Bremner, who teaches at Browning High School located on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. “But this is awesome.”

“I am so excited to have been in the room to witness this signing ceremony,” said Peacock, who teaches in Guilford County. “Now my children will be able to say to my grandchildren that their grandmother was there when this historic legislation was signed into law.

Bremner, who is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and grew up on the reservation where she has taught for 30-years, says she’s waited a long time for this. She says NCLB wreaked havoc on her students’ self-esteem.

“I teach indigenous children. They struggle with confidence issues,” said Bremner. “And then for them to be stuck in the roiling waters of testing, testing, and more testing, and being told that they are underachieving and that their school is in trouble, all that did little to help their self-esteem.”

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MT educator Mary Jo Bremner and NC educator Sabrina Peacock

Peacock teaches at a high-poverty school where the entire student population qualifies for free-and-reduced price breakfast and lunch. She says her students come from families that are often transient. She adds there are 14 different languages at her school, which creates barriers to learning.

“So with this new education act, their growth and progress will be taken into account as well as their test scores,” said Peacock. “It won’t just be about their flat scores—which will make a great difference because our students make a lot of growth even though they may not always hit what’s considered to be their testing mark.”

Utah educator and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia also attended today’s signing ceremony.

“We commend Congress for the bipartisan cooperation, leadership and hard work to get the job done for students and educators,” said Eskelsen García in a statement released today. “We thank President Obama for signing this important bill into law. Now our work begins in earnest as we shift our attention toward implementation. We look forward to working closely with state and local policymakers, as well as other key stakeholders, to raise our voice to deliver on the promise of ESSA and to provide opportunity for all students.”

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Want to know why educators support the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177)? Click here and find out!

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