Every Child Succeeds Bill is Ready for a Vote
How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) listen to testimony during a hearing looking at ways to fix the No Child Left Behind law. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Federal lawmakers on Monday released the final text of a compromise bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, including closely watched language outlining how the nation’s K-12 schools would be judged — and how struggling schools would be improved — if the legislation passes.
The bill, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act, would largely shift authority from the federal government to states and districts, giving local officials far more power to define what it means for a school to be successful and to decide how and when to intervene in schools that persistently fail to live up to expectations.
It attempts to thread the needle between conservatives who want to shrink the federal government’s footprint in education and civil rights advocates who worry that some states, left to their own devices, will obfuscate or ignore the poor performance of schools serving low-income and minority students.
Specifically, under the Every Student Succeeds Act:
- The testing regime remains in place. States would still be required, as they are now, to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and publicly report the scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether students are English-language learners.
- States get to set their own academic goals. Where No Child Left Behind set forth one goal for the nation — 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2014 — the new bill would require each state to set and measure progress toward its own academic goals.
- Test scores still matter, but how much is up to the states. States would be charged with designing systems for judging schools. Each system would have to include measures of academic progress, including test scores, graduation rates and (for non-native English speakers) English language acquisition. But it would also have to include a measure of school climate, such as student engagement or access to advanced courses. All of the academic indicators together must count for “much” more than the non-academic factor, but the definition of “much” is not clear.
- What should be done in schools that are struggling will be up to states and districts. Under No Child Left Behind, a school could get dinged if just one of its subgroups failed to meet annual testing goals, and the federal government exercised a lot of say in what happened in persistently failing schools. Under the new bill, it’s likely that fewer schools will be required to be marked for interventions, and it’s up to states and, in many cases, districts to decide what to do to improve those schools. Schools marked for the most intensive interventions would be those among the lowest-performing 5 percent in the state, those in which fewer than two-thirds of students graduate on time, and those in which a subgroup of students “consistently underperforms.” It’s up to each state to determine how long a group of students would have to lag before the school would be required to take action.
- What happens if lots of kids opt out of testing? Again, it’s up to the state. Under No Child Left Behind, a school automatically got a black eye if it failed to test at least 95 percent of its eligible students. The aim was to ensure that principals and teachers weren’t discouraging low performers from showing up on test day in order to boost scores. The new bill maintains the 95 percent requirement, but states can decide how participation rates should figure into their overall school rating system.