December 9, 2015

Congress Finally Finishes Its Homework

Casie Daugherty

This morning, the Senate took the last step to complete a bipartisan overhaul of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), with an 85-12 vote to approve the Conference Report- with all twelve dissenting votes coming from Republicans. The President is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.

Finally, eight years after the expiration of the original version of NCLB, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) addresses some of the major shortfalls of President George W. Bush’s landmark education bill and received support from both teachers unions and education reformers.

A major bipartisan achievement that many doubted would ever see the light of day, much less become law was crafted by Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). ESSA transitions significant power away from the federal government and back to individual states and local school districts. One of the main changes the bill makes is to remove the laser-focus on test scores, especially as a way to evaluate teachers and schools. Although the bill keeps the federal yearly testing requirement, it gives schools the ability to determine how much the results actually matter. Additionally, the Secretary of Education is prohibited from pushing specific academic standards, like the much-maligned Common Core.

In the end, Congress turned in a well-crafted assignment… albeit after a generous extension.