With NCLB Gone and ESSA In, Schools Look to Adjustments


The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law on December 10 by President Barack Obama to replace the expired No Child Left Behind Act.  The new law will put more educational control into state and local hands, specifically concerning improvement and accountability — and now states are starting to figure out how to do it.

The new law puts a limit to the role of the federal secretary of education, decreases the number of unnecessary programs, views test results differently, includes school assessments, ends mandates to adopt standards including Common Core, and does not allow federal intervention at private or charter schools.

As the news of the signing was made public, local districts across the nation began to wonder how the changes would affect their schools.

“A lot of the authority for education has shifted back to the state,” Princeton Schools Superintendent Julia Espe said. “I really don’t think it will make a big impact on our district.”

Espe, who is in Princeton, Minnesota, went on to say it is expected that the new law will mostly affect low-performing schools, calling it a continuation of what is currently expected.  Most title and waiver programs will remain in place, and the same sort of accountability systems will still be used in schools with little change.  While proficiency tests will still be used, an examination of subgroups will take place in order to aid in the closing of achievement gaps.

The No Child Left Behind Act implemented in 2002 measured school districts by graduation rates and standardized test results in English, math, and science.  Penalties were assessed to schools that did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress test goals.

Under the new law, states will be able to make their own decisions concerning education while increasing the number of quality measurements without putting those ideas through the US Department of Education first, writes Jennifer Johnson for The Grand Forks Herald.  States will be able to determine how best to hold under-performing schools accountable rather than relying on the federal government to penalize schools based on standardized test results.

Teachers would also be given more control over their jobs as they would not be required to put so much lesson time into preparing for “high-stakes” standardized testing.  While an annual test would still be required for grades 3-8 and once in high school, it would be left up to individual states to decide how to use those scores in determining a school’s performance.

In addition, school districts that do not meet specific increases on test results will not need to put some of their federal funding toward tutoring services or hiring consultants for additional teacher training.

However, schools will still be held accountable for student achievement and will be required to develop a plan for measuring school performance and helping under-achieving schools.

The law also takes a closer look at the educational needs of American Indian students in hopes of helping them to increase their achievement.