Every Student Succeeds Act v. No Child Left Behind


President Obama signed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” into law yesterday, more or less replacing the No Child Left Behind Act that was a staple of former President George W. Bush’s national agenda.

President Obama signed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” into law yesterday, more or less replacing the No Child Left Behind Act that was a staple of former President George W. Bush’s national agenda.

The President’s newly signed law is known to be a more “flexible approach to student testing and school accountability”. This new law will continue to hold states responsible for fixing their under-performing schools.

This Thursday, President Obama expressed that “The goals of No Child Left Behind were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap, but in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It often forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”

This new law is aimed towards maintaining the values of No Child Left Behind, while holding states accountable for understanding the specific and vital needs of each community. The widely perceived “one-size-fits all approach” wasn’t working as well as intended. President Obama’s legislation will allow schools to evaluate each of their students on an individual basis.

The 2002 law required states to test third – eighth grade students on Math and English every year, and then once during their high school years. As well, the law required states to administer one science test in elementary, middle and high school. Whereas President Obama’s Act will have the same testing standard but allow states the flexibility; and management in how and when they administer and assess those exams in order to accurately measure what students are learning.

Unfortunately, the 2002 law didn’t emerge until later towards the end of 2009. The new law will allow states to adopt Common Core standards but does not require it. Moreover, this newly signed law will now require the Education Department to remain fair and neutral: “The Secretary shall not attempt to influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative or any other academic standards common to a significant number of States, or assessments tied to such standard.”

President Obama’s legislation leaves most of the accountability goals up to the states. States must submit their plans to the Department of Education. There are guidelines that define loosely what their respective goals need to include. However, test scores and graduation rates will be given “much greater weight” than the more individual subjective measures.

This new law is very specific about which schools need intervention but much less specific on what those interventions should be. This law expresses that “schools at the bottom 5% of assessment scores (as defined by the state), high schools that graduate less than 67% of students, or schools where subgroups are consistently underperforming” will be considered failing and will possibly be subjected to state takeover.

The law authorizes the spending of $24.9 billion in 2016. The Congressional budget office predicts that cost would grow to $25.8 billion in 2020.

I have high hopes for this law. Hopefully, we will be able to adequately equip the minds of the next generation to ensure their educational success. President Obama’s legislation will give states and educators the space and tools they need to properly measure the individual success of their students. By allowing such room to grow, educators will be able to properly assess the needs of those in their class and measure their progression. This legislation has begun to change the national dialogue and increase our focus on what matters…our children!

Further Reading

Blog PhotoJada Cash-Wilson is a Project Coordinator/Graduate Intern in the Department of Government & External Affairs and Community Impact and holds a BA in Political Philosophy. Before connecting with Wheelock, she worked as a Research Policy/Grant Analyst and liaison between the Mayor and City Council for a major city in the mid-west, and as a Legislative Aide for former U.S Senator Carl Levin. Jada aspires to someday make a positive difference in the world.