The No Child Left Behind Act, former President George W. Bush’s signature domestic policy, was ambitious and in some respects, well-intended legislation. NCLB was supposed to help create equity in the nation's K-12 public education system by making educators more accountable for the federal dollars they received.
But the law has all but sunk under the weight of its own controversy, and talk of revising or repealing it has been almost constant. President Obama allowed waivers to NCLB, but in other ways expanded it with his Race to the Top initiative.
NCLB is now about to get a much-anticipated overhaul. A new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or its more marketable title, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is expected to make its way through Congress. Obama, according to most reports, is expected to sign it into law sometime this month.
ESEA would replace NCLB starting in the 2017-2018 school year. And there's a provision to revisit it four years after that.
The new law is more than 1,000 pages long and no less complicated than NCLB. Education Week’s Alyson Klein has written extensively about it, and in a recent blog
offers a detailed comparison between the old law and the proposed legislation. Here are some highlights:
States will still be required to test students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and in high school, and to make the results public. And they will still have to delineate how various subgroups within the school, such as minority students, performed.
But the states would have a fairly free hand to set goals and create their own accountability standards, as well as determining what to do when schools don’t meet those standards. However, the states will have to include a mix of “indicators” into their accountability measures, such as proficiency on state tests. And at least one indicator will need to be more student-centered, like student engagement or school climate.
States are still going to have to focus their attention on low-performing schools, defined as the bottom-performing 5 percent. And they will have to intervene when the graduation rate is 67 percent or less.
But one of the more contentious aspects of the old legislation has been scrubbed. In keeping with a more relaxed version of this education bill, the federal government will have no say in teacher evaluations. States will not have to base teacher evaluations on student outcomes on mandated tests.