[Last] week’s U.S. House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, makes it clear: If you want to see education policy in the next few years, look to state capitols, not Washington, D.C.
The current version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, created a federal system of testing and accountability, and many educators and policy makers contended that that law was too constraining and created some harmful side-effects.
ESSA would largely restore the system that existed prior to NCLB, in which states had greater authority over their testing and accountability systems.
NCLB was enacted in 2002, and was scheduled to expire in 2007. Congress has failed to revise the law since then, and the U.S. Department of Education has issued waivers to nearly all states from the law based on certain conditions. Many believe the Obama Administration over-stepped its authority in imposing these conditions on states. Ironically, this had the effect of putting more pressure on Congress to finally fix NCLB.
The ESSA would retain NCLB’s requirement that states test all students in grades three through eight every year, and at least one grade every year in high school, in reading and mathematics. But unlike with NCLB, states would be able to create their own accountability system to determine the consequences associated with those tests. However, states would be required to intervene in schools in the lowest 5 percent of performance, those with groups of underserved students that consistently demonstrate low performance, and those with graduation rates below 67 percent. What these interventions would look like would be up to the states. <Read more.>