The U.S. Senate passed a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), called the Every Student Succeeds Act by a vote of 85-12.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate committee responsible for ESSA, called the passage of ESSA a “Christmas present for 50 million children and 3.4 million teachers in 100,000 public schools across this country”.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) voted no, and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) voted yes, mirroring their votes yesterday to end debate on the bill. Both Senators voted for the original passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
Shelby released this statement yesterday ahead of the vote:
“While this bill may be well-intentioned and makes some improvements to our current policy, it is a missed opportunity to truly put an end to unnecessary federal intervention into education. I have always believed that education decisions should be made at a local level and that Congress should empower parents and teachers – not Washington bureaucrats. Instead, this bill extends some of the same failed policies that could provide a path for top-down federal mandates like Common Core.
I know that local communities make better decisions for their students, parents, teachers, and administrators than Washington does. That is why I will continue to fight against bureaucratic red-tape and misguided policies like Common Core. It’s time to restore local control over our nation’s education system and get Washington out of our classrooms.”
In an email to its members yesterday, the conservative Eagle Forum of Alabama urged members to contact and tell Alabama’s Senators to vote no, stating that ESSA actually expands the federal government’s role further than it ultimately repeals the “excesses” of NCLB, citing federal funding for preschool and community learning centers as examples of areas in which the federal government should not be involved. “For our Republic to prosper, states must be allowed to handle education once again,” read the Eagle Forum’s suggested letter to Alabama’s senators.
In very real ways, ESSA returns some control to the states, including forbidding the U.S. Secretary of Education from coercing or incentivizing states to adopt any particular academic standards and instead leaving it up to states to adopt “challenging” academic standards.
However, ESSA does keep essential parts of NCLB intact, including yearly testing for students in grades 3 through 8. And it adds a requirement to test students in science at three different times in grades 3 through 12. In addition, test results must still be broken down, or disaggregated, by subgroups and publicly reported.
What to do about those results remains a state decision. The federal measure of Adequate Yearly Progress is gone forever.
In response to today’s final Senate vote, state Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice provided this statement:
“I am very encouraged with the language in the Every Student Succeeds bill, as it reflects the current policy our State Board of Education has ensured was reflected in our NCLB Waiver; that is to set high expectations across multiple areas of student learning and success and to allow states and local school systems to determine how best to achieve those expectations, while holding ourselves to meaningful accountability measures, beyond what can be measured by one test score.”
Mary Scott Hunter (R-Huntsville), State Board of Education member, shared this statement:
“The update is long overdue. Obviously, it will not be perfect, and time will tell regarding its effectiveness. My hope and expectation is that it’s an improvement from the weary days of NCLB and the string of Administration driven exceptions which tended to bog down and be susceptible to politics. No matter what it is, it will not work unless it is honestly and consistently evaluated for effectiveness and then amended as needed. And this is the major risk. Washington seems so broken and filled with finger pointers one wonders if a good start can be maintained.”
The State Board of Education will hold their regular monthly meeting and work session on Thursday, and ESSA will be a likely topic of discussion.
The Alabama Association of Schools Boards took to Twitter to urge support of ESSA.
— AlabamaSchoolBoards (@AlaSchoolBoards) December 9, 2015
There is little doubt that as the careful dissection of the 1,059-page bill begins, more will be shared about what ESSA does and doesn’t do.
The bill enjoyed wide support among education groups, including the National Parent Teacher Association, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and the National School Board Association. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers also endorsed ESSA. The 33-member Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities endorsed the bill calling it “stronger for the most vulnerable students than the outdated No Child Left Behind Act and the current waivers that are in effect in most states today.”
Here is Sen. Alexander’s full statement just prior to this morning’s vote:
This post will be updated if other official statements are released.
Congress is getting rid of No Child Left Behind. Here’s what will replace it – Vox.com – December 9
Outdated education law up for major makeover in Senate – Associated Press – December 9
ESEA reauthorization continues a long federal retreat from American classrooms – Brookings Institute blog, December 8
No Child Left Behind: An Obituary – December 8, NPR Education
ESEA reauthorization: The Every Student Succeeds Act explained – November 30, Education Week
How schools would be judged under ‘Every Student Succeeds,’ the new No Child Left Behind – November 30, The Washington Post
Praise from governors, state chiefs, highlight reaction to ESEA bill – November 30, Education Week
Congress set to dump No Child Left Behind – November 30, Politico
National PTA statement on ESSA – November 30, PTA.org