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New federal education law signals end of “No Child Left Behind”

The era of No Child Left Behind is coming to a close. On December 10, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind. The transition to ESSA will begin next August, with major changes coming in the 2016-2017 school year.

Like No Child Left Behind, the policy behind ESSA is to improve education nationwide by closing the achievement gap and ensuring greater accountability. Both laws emphasize standardized testing and accountability goals. However, ESSA takes a more localized, state-centered approach than its predecessor.

What else makes the new law different?

  • ESSA gives states greater flexibility, especially when it comes to testing, educational standards and accountability goals.
  • ESSA provides more emphasis on a broader array of objective criteria – such as testing scores, graduation rates, suspension rates and college enrollment rates – while still factoring into account nonacademic factors that influence schools’ performance.
  • Whereas No Child Left Behind prescribed harsh remediation measures for underperforming schools, the new law gives states authority to establish their own “evidence-based methods” for assisting schools that are struggling.

Prominent educational leaders in California have initially met the law with enthusiasm. However, they caution that the upcoming regulatory process will play a key role in fleshing out the details of how the law will impact schools.

With the ink still drying on the new law – and its actual implementation still off on the horizon – it remains to be seen how ESSA will affect Northern California schools. However, it’s important for parents to be aware of these changes, and to keep abreast of new developments in these ongoing reforms.

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