WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) — President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act on Thursday, dismantling the No Child Left Behind Act by handing more power to state and local officials over school testing and underachieving schools.
ESSA keeps annual math and reading testing requirements for Grades 3 though 8, but cuts back on high school testing to once before graduation. It also continues to require schools annually report test scores and keep track of demographics including race, economic status and disabilities.
While mandated testing will still be a factor in education, it will now be one of many pieces in determining student achievement. States will be able to determine how to handle schools with test scores in the lowest 5 percent or where fewer than two-thirds of students graduate on time. States will decide how to weigh tests, and whether and how to evaluate teachers. They can set their own goals and timelines, although plans must be approved by the federal Department of Education.
Obama called the ESSA “an early Christmas present” and a “Christmas miracle” as a bipartisan bill. He said the goals of NCLF were the right ones — high standards, accountability and closing the achievement gap — but they fell short, not considering individual needs and implementing too much testing. The ESSA focuses on a national graduation standards and builds on reforms already made, he said.
“With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal that every child, regardless of race, income background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make out of their lives what they want,” he said. “Now the hard work begins. Laws are only as good as the implementation.
The National Education Association applauded the ESSA as a bipartisan compromise that will “usher in a new era in public education.”
“Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said. “This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new system that includes an ‘opportunity dashboard’ with indicators of school success and student support. Not only does it reduce the amount of standardized testing in schools, but it decouples high-stakes decisions and statewide testing so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — inspire a lifelong love of learning.”
ESSA was approved Wednesday by the Senate 85 to 12. The new legislation abandons No Child Left Behind, the signature domestic legislation of President George W. Bush in 2002.