We reached the end of our first special session Thursday and budget negotiations are proceeding fairly slowly. The Governor called for a second special session.
One issue drawing national and statewide attention is the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). President George W. Bush’s education reform initiative has proven to be deeply flawed and is in desperate need of revision. For far too long, congressional deadlock hampered any progress towards updating NCLB. U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander recently joined forces and reached a bipartisan agreement on a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. Their proposal is called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
The majority of schools in the U.S. and Washington were deemed “failing” by NCLB standards and sanctions were set to take effect. Most states received temporary waivers from the federal government so as to avoid punitive sanctions. In order to receive those waivers, states had to adhere to a number of federal policy demands. Our state chose not to give in to those demands with the belief that education policy is best handled at the state and local levels. As a result, our waiver was revoked and certain financial restrictions were applied to school districts.
Good news for Washington
With the Every Child Achieves Act, the sanctions and the need for waivers will disappear. This means no more requirements for using student test data in teacher/principal evaluation, no more set aside restrictions, no more waivers, and no more federally-imposed policy demands.
Instead of the negative reinforcement approach to education policy used by NCLB, the Every Child Achieves Act uses positive reinforcements to improve student outcomes.
Key Concepts of the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015
- Ends federal overreach into education policy: The bill acknowledges that states along with school districts have the primary responsibility for education.
- Flexibility: It provides flexibility for states to design and deliver a robust education that meets the needs of each individual state.
- Accountability: The bill maintains strong accountability systems, the details of which are determined by the states.
Under the act, minimum standards would be set by the federal government, but it’ll be primarily up to states to develop policies and systems that provide opportunities to learn for all students. It gives states the flexibility they need to create accountability systems that provide pathways to success for all students. While standardized testing would remain a requirement, they will no longer be used to impose sanctions. States will have much more flexibility to design testing systems and to determine how those test results would be used.
The new law would maintain the use of disaggregated data – a vital component to ensuring we collect information for all students so policymakers can make better-informed decisions. The bill also includes a grant program to improve low-performing schools.
The Every Child Achieves Act was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate committee that oversees education policy. It now heads to the Senate floor in Washington, DC, for consideration.
For more information on the act:
- Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 summary
- U.S. News & World Report: No Child Left Behind Rewrite Heads to Senate Floor