Congress is set to vote on a new education law – a revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known under its current name – No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Signed into law by George W. Bush back in 2002, NCLB has been left stagnating through years of partisan bickering and in need of some major overhauls. It had been up for renewal in 2007; eight years later it is getting the attention it needed.
Writes The Associated Press on Nov. 20, via Yahoo News: “The compromise legislation, approved Thursday by House and Senate negotiators, would sharply reduce the federal role in education policy but still require students to be tested in reading and math in grades three to eight, and once in high school.”
The House will have a chance to vote on the revised law during the first week of December, with the Senate a few days after.
In July, the Washington Post carried a letter, sent jointly by the Journey for Justice Alliance – a coalition of dozens of parent / teacher organizations of color – along with nearly 200 other national and local civil rights groups, detailing what they hoped to be included in the law’s revision.
The letter, read here in its entirety, was addressed to Addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Kentucky) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D –Nevada). The letter asked Congress to “pass an ESEA reauthorization without requiring the regime of oppressive, high stakes, standardized testing and sanctions that have recently been promoted as civil rights provisions within ESEA.”
A conference committee of Senate and House members gave overwhelming support – by a vote of 39 to 1 – to approve the agreement and move ahead with votes on the floor. The revised bill will be made public next week.
“This is a difficult subject,” commented Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee), who along with Patty Murray (D – Washington) wrote the Senate’s bill. “It’s like being at a football game with 100,000 people in the stands, and every one of them knows what play to call next — and usually says so,” Alexander added.
According to the NY Times, the agreement “preserves the federal requirement that public schools administer annual standardized tests in reading and math from third through eighth grade and once in high school, and requires schools to “make the scores public and to break them down by students’ race, income and disability status.”
The revised agreement takes away the sanctions – from mandatory tutoring to shuttering schools in extreme cases – that states and school districts were to impose on schools with consistently poor performance. Now, each state and local district will work together to define what is considered “poor performance.” The new law also takes away the standardized proficiency levels in reading and math that the NCLB required by a certain age.
US News and World Report carried a simple breakdown on the changes in the new education law.