The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, colloquially referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), hasn’t had a rewrite since 2002, though it’s been up for reauthorization since 2007 and there have been many attempts to address its flaws.
But that’s expected to change soon, as the Senate gears up for a debate on a reauthorization this summer. This will make it the most serious attempt at a rewrite since 2001.
“I think we’ll be successful,” Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the education committee and co-author of the bill, said at an event hosted by National Journal, according to Ed Week.
“Maybe if we’re able to pass it with a big vote, they will be able to pass it too,” Alexander added, in reference to the House of Representatives, which would also need to approve the bill before it was reauthorized.
NCLB was passed in passed in 2001 with bipartisan support and the goal of setting high standards for students and holding schools accountable to meet measurable success. It specifically intended to address the achievement gap for disadvantaged and disabled students.
The law also required all students in third through eighth grade to take annual tests in maths and reading, and in doing so ushered in a new era of testing linked to punishments that didn’t previously exist. These punishments come in the form of less funding or closures for schools that don’t make progress towards proficiency on annual exams.
One of the biggest problems opponents have with NCLB — high-stakes testing — will remain untouched with the reauthorization. The federal testing schedule requires students to be evaluated in maths and English every year in third through eighth grade and once in high school. They’re evaluated in science once in third through fifth grade, once in sixth through eighth grade, and once in high school.
However, even though the testing schedule won’t change, the ramifications surrounding test results will change with the rewrite. States will have more flexibility and autonomy to make decisions about how to improve student achievement and what measures, other testing, will be components of their accountability systems. “This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests,” Alexander said in a press release.
So far, the bill has had support from an array of education groups, including praise from The American Federation of Teachers, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and civil rights organisations, among others.
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