Goodbye, No Child Left Behind

by Jeff Camp | January 7, 2016 | 1 Comment
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Hello, Every Child Succeeds

The core goal of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was for all students to meet state proficiency targets by the year 2014. Like the students of Lake Wobegone, NCLB envisioned an America "where all the children are above average."

After years of false starts, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been consigned to history. Its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), became law on Dec 10, 2015. It will take effect in the 2017-18 school year.

Here's what you need to know about ESSA and where to learn more.

Remain Calm.

The passage of ESSA is important, but much will stay the same, particularly in California. When the law takes effect it is not likely to rock your school. For example, under ESSA:

  • States must continue to administer assessments each year in math and English/language arts for students in grades three through eight, and once in high school. California parents will still get information about their students' CAASPP scores, and the scores will still be summarized at the school level and at the district level.
  • States must provide targeted support for low performing schools and disadvantaged children. California is already on this path through the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
  • States must measure school success in a way that makes primary use of test scores, but success can include other measures, too.

Keep it positive. The change from "No Child" to "Every Student" reverses the tone of the basic Federal education law from an expression of what we don't want ("no child left behind") to an expression of what we do want ("every student succeeds").

Bipartisan. ESSA passed 359-64 in the House and 85-12 in the Senate. President Obama dubbed it "a Christmas miracle."

Changes are likely modest

New funding for "parent and family engagement." ESSA will require school districts and charter schools to use at least 1 percent of the Federal funds they receive under Title I to assist schools in carrying out activities in support of parent and family involvement. (See page 179 of the conference report.)

School accountability remains a work-in-progress. The new law reduces the Federal role in pressuring states to improve educational outcomes for all students. Still, it requires states to take a role in at least 5% of troubled schools where there is persistent evidence that groups of students are not getting the education they need.

How will we measure school success? For the last decade, in California there have been two systems for measuring a school's success (or for assigning it to a list of schools in trouble). The California state system was the Academic Performance Index (API) and the Federal system was Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). At present, both of those systems are on ice, and it remains unclear what will replace them. However, ESSA shifts federal education policy closer to California’s model of more local control and flexibility.

So what’s New? The Big Idea

ESSA moves past an accountability system that centralized control in Washington. ESSA gives states more power, especially the ability to define and use multiple measures of school and student progress.

How to Learn More The new law runs over 1,000 pages. If you don't want to read them yourself, the Alliance for Educational Excellence has created a series of videos about the Every Student Succeeds Act as well as a side-by-side chart comparing accountability provisions in NCLB, NCLB waivers, and ESSA.

Who is happy with the new ESSA law?

What's next? Even popular laws can lose favor when put into action. Education Trust West lays out some of the critical decisions ahead.

Updates to Ed100

When the education system changes in important ways, we update Ed100 to keep you informed. The changes to ESSA are reflected in lessons 7.2 and 7.9, along with information to put these changes into context.

Join the Discussion

  • What is your school community's reaction to the new ESSA law?
  • How is your school district affected? Is your district already operating under a Federal waiver from NCLB through the CORE agreement?
  • The new law requires states to intervene in the schools that fall in the bottom 5% in your district, but doesn't specify what that means. If your district includes struggling schools, how do you hope this law could help?

Questions & Comments

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Jeff Camp - Founder January 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm
More details about ESSA are available in this excellent nine-page handout from Partners for Each and Every Child, a project of the Opportunity Institute:
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