Leaving Behind No Child Left Behind

The House passed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The House Passed The Every Student Succeeds Act

Last night, barely 24 hours after the worst mass shooting since Sandy Hook, the Senate voted to block common sense gun reforms, including one that would prohibit terror suspects from legally purchasing guns. But this week, amidst all the vote-o-rama drama, Congress actually worked. On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives passed a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which will update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—most recently known as No Child Left Behind – passed with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 359 to 64. The Senate will vote on the bill next week, and it is widely expected to pass and get President Obama’s signature. After what seems like constant partisan gridlock, the passage of the ESSA served as a welcome example of Congress actually working.

For almost a year, the Center for American Progress, along with teacher, civil rights, business and education communities worked with Congress to create a bill that would better serves all students, particularly those who are most at-risk. Not only does the bill preserve annual assessments and the use of disaggregated data to ensure that the most disadvantaged students are not falling behind, it also allows states and districts to take a more holistic approach to the evaluation process.

Here are some of the key aspects of the bill:

  • Invests $250 million in a program for high-quality early childhood education. Every $1 invested in early childhood education delivers $7 in public benefits. The combination of sky-rocketing costs and low quality are putting quality child care and pre-k out of reach for too many families, forcing them to make an impossible choice between their pay check and their child’s care.
  • Rejects Title I portability, which would have taken money from poorer districts and given it to wealthier districts. The goal of Title I is to provide low-income students attending schools with high concentrations of other economically disadvantaged students with additional financial support. A previous bill proposed by Rep. Lamar Alexander would have eliminated the targeting of federal dollars to schools and districts with the highest concentrations of low-income students.
  • Funds audits for testing to help districts reduce the number of duplicative tests. Overtesting is a main concern of parents of public school students, and this bill provides funding for districts to audit tests to help avoid overtesting.
  • Requires action in the lowest-performing schools and those where subgroups of students are struggling. No Child Left Behind required states and districts to identify low-performing schools, but provided very little resources to actually help the schools improve. This bill tackles the issue of resources and support for struggling schools. Schools aren’t solely responsible for their struggles, and states and districts need to be responsible for helping them get better.

After months of debate, the Every Student Succeeds Act, while not perfect, replaces a broken No Child Left Behind law and provides a path towards strengthening our schools. It’s also frankly a surprise – and a relief – that Congress can come together to pass such important legislation. The bill better serves all students and provides much needed investment in our most at-risk students, but there are still significant steps to take. In order to improve instruction and ultimately improve student outcomes, policymakers need to work to better ways through which teachers are recruited, prepared, supported and compensated.

BOTTOM LINE: Congress worked! The Every Student Succeeds Act is not only provides a path to improving schools, it is also a welcome sign that Congress can work to pass bipartisan legislation. But there is still more work to be done to ensure that every child has access to quality education.

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