After 13 years, the No Child Left Behind era is ending.
On Dec. 9, the Senate passed a rewrite of the long-maligned legislation that is expected to be signed into law by President Obama later this month. The new law, called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), would maintain some of the old law's goals, such as creating equal opportunities for students across social and economic boundaries, but would shift power away from the federal government and give the states and school districts more options on how to allocate funding and benchmark success.
While No Child Left Behind was criticized for its over-emphasis on standardized testing and general inefficacy, ESSA found bipartisan support, passing 85-12 in the Senate.
ESSA would still require schools to account for student performance, but monitoring would be done by states and school districts according to criteria and protocols they develop.
Standardized testing would still be required, but districts could, with permission from their states, use tests like the SAT or ACT instead of separate state tests. Standardized testing will also play a diminshed role in the evaluation criteria, both of students and teachers, as other factors will enter consideration.
Though ESSA is widely supported, some expect little change to come of the bill's passage. More than 40 states are already waived from No Child Left Behind's most restrictive requirements, which means that in many respects, the new law is more of a formality than a revolution. One impact the passage would have, The Atlantic reported, is a decreased focus on recent debates around Common Core and overtesting in general.
Others suggest that the law's passage is rushed, as there wasn't sufficient time for lawmakers to read the 1,061-page document and thoroughly consider its consequences. The testing mandates from No Child Left Behind are still there, one education blogger wrote.
The legislation also authorizes $250 million in preschool grant funding through the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. Some applaud the measure, others call it political posturing, and others worry it fits the mold of similar federally funded pre-education programs like Head Start, which has faced strong opposition for its shortcomings for more than a decade.
The legislation can be found on the Education and the Workforce Committee website.