Weekly Columns

As an English and journalism teacher at Stuttgart High School, Meghan Ables added reading and writing opportunities at the school by reestablishing its monthly magazine and helping launch its studio - Ricebird Television. Ables is making a difference in the lives of students. Her dedication to education earned her the title of 2016 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. 

The Arkansas Department of Education’s announcement of Ables’ award noted that her contribution to learning helped increase student test scores in the school district. 

Ables is the perfect example of how teachers are one of the best assets we have in our efforts to prepare young Arkansans for the future. As a teacher, she is able to identify areas her students need to improve and implement strategies to help them grow academically and achieve higher scores. 

Teachers deserve flexibility to help students succeed in the classroom, and that begins by providing state and local leaders the opportunity to make education decisions based on the needs of their population. 

As a former school board member, I understand that the one-size-fits-all policy forced on our schools from Washington is ineffective. That’s why I supported the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), legislation that strengthens state and local control to improve student achievement. 

Earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed this legislation, and the next day the President signed it into law, making it the first significant education reform since 2002. 

This law puts governors, school boards, parents and teachers back in charge of education standards. 

ESSA ends the policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) including the testing burden the law placed on schools, teachers and students. Instead, this new law grants states the power to determine and define the measurement of success, and eliminates Washington’s ability to mandate or coerce states to adopt the top-down education standards of Common Core.  

Innovation in education has been stifled by government bureaucracy. ESSA allows states and communities flexibility in crafting the best education policies that meet the specific needs of each community. It also strengthens the charter school program, which has had great success in Arkansas and across the country. 

The law also incorporates an amendment I offered to integrate rigorous academic coursework in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and real-world skills based on industry needs. 

This is an effort to capture the best practices around the country so we can increase graduation rates and prepare career ready students by partnering with industry. CTE programs offered in high schools across Arkansas provide students with trade skills. The partnerships between schools and businesses is an economic asset. 

This reform is important to our children, parents, educators and the future of our country. It puts control back in the hands of school boards and teachers like Meghan Ables who can see first-hand the needs of students and determine the best course of action for the unique challenges they face.