The Senate made big waves on Wednesday by overwhelmingly approving legislation that puts an end to the landmark No Child Left Behind Act, while cutting the government’s ties to the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools. Last week, the bill easily passed through the House of Representatives. On Thursday, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Lawmakers have been saying that the legislation, which is known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, will offer more power to local school boards, who have felt restricted by their lack of control. However, the exact effects will vary between different states. Some states might have a more difficult time obtaining high-quality teachers than other states.
Republican Senator of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Education Panel Lamar Alexander said, “It is the single biggest step toward local control of public schools in 25 years. (The Bill will) unleash a flood of innovation and student achievement across America, community by community and state by state.”
The legislation will have a direct impact on nearly 50 million public school students, along with 3.4 million teachers. Additionally, school boards, mayors, state legislators, governors, business groups, civil rights advocates, teachers unions and any businesses with a stake in the public school market will be affected. The public school market in the United States is worth approximately $700 billion.
The legislation will directly affect nearly 50 million public school students and their 3.4 million teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade. But its impact will also be felt by school boards, mayors, state legislators, governors, business groups, civil rights advocates, teachers unions and businesses with a stake a public school market estimated to be worth about $700 billion.
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 was considered by many to be the signature domestic initiative of President George W. Bush. It largely increased the federal government’s role in local classrooms throughout America. The law established a nationally recognized system that judged schools based on their math and reading test scores. It also required schools to increase their scores on a yearly basis, or else they would be subject to escalating penalties.
With the new Every Student Succeeds Act, states will be allowed to develop their own methods for judging the quality of their schools. This will give states more power in measuring the academic growth of their students, providing academically challenging courses and determining the proper level of parent involvement. States will also now establish their own goals and timelines for achieving academic progress. That being said, these plans will need to be approved by the Department of Education.
However, schools will still be required to annually test students in math and reading between grades 3 and 8 and at least once in high school. These results will need to be publicly reported according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether or not the students learn in English.
While most people involved are optimistic about the bill, some education experts are concerned that the move will allow some states to place a reduced emphasis on education. With federal standards not being as strict, states might start to neglect their schools.
Georgetown University educational policy expert Thomas Toch said, “The reason we evolved to a more centralized system is because local school districts failed to act effectively on their own. Many students were left behind in the era of local control, and now we’re going back to that era. It puts school districts in charge of fixing failing schools, the same school districts that are running the failing schools now.”
That being said, most leaders believe that the new legislation will reduce the over-testing that has been plaguing public schools for years. According to Senator Alexander, this has been a growing national concern.
Alexander said on the Senate Floor on Tuesday, “In our Senate hearings, we heard more about over-testing than any other subject. I believe this new law will result in fewer and better tests because states and classrooms teachers will be deciding what to do about the results of those tests.”
Many teachers are also happy about the move. One fifth grade teacher at a public elementary school in Boston Brianne Brown had seen firsthand how requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act affected her young students.
Brown said, “There are schools in my own district where kids are taking standardized tests every three weeks. It was all with the best intentions. You want them to do well on the end-of-the-year test, so then you’re like ‘Oh, let’s do some interim testing to make sure they’re on track’. But it’s crazy. It seems like the balance swung too far in one direction. I hope this new law will calm some of that down.”
One extremely encouraging aspect of the new bill is that both Democrats and Republicans actually had something to agree on for once. With the overwhelming amount of support that the legislation has received, this act looks to be like a real winner. States across the nation will be very pleased that they can now take education into their own hands.