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No Child Left Behind Comes to an End With the Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD on

After 13 years and much debate, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has come to an end.

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A new law called the “Every Student Succeeds Act” was enacted on December 10. It replaces NCLB and eliminates some of its most controversial provisions.

The Every Student Succeeds Act responds to some of the key criticisms of NCLB. One is that NCLB relied too much on standardized tests. Another is that schools faced harsh penalties when all of their students weren’t on track to reach proficiency on state tests.

At the same time, the new law keeps some aspects of No Child Left Behind. For example, states are still required to report on the progress of traditionally underserved kids. This includes kids in .

The new law is over 1,000 pages. But here are some of the most important things to know:

State Authority: Under the new law, the job of holding schools accountable largely shifts from the federal government to the states. But the federal government still provides a broad framework. Each state must set goals for its schools and evaluate how they’re doing. States also have to create a plan for improving schools that are struggling or that have a specific group of students who are underperforming.

Annual Testing: States still have to test students in reading and math once a year in grades 3 through 8, as well as once in high school. Students with and will continue to get accommodations on those tests. And only 1 percent of all students can be given “alternate” tests.

Accountability: Under the new law, states may now consider more than just student test scores when evaluating schools. In fact, they must come up with at least one other measure. Other measures might include things like school safety and access to advanced coursework. But student performance is still the most important measure under the law.

Reporting: States have to continue to publicly report test results and other measures of student achievement and school success by “subgroups” of students. That includes students in special education, minorities, those in poverty and those learning English.

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Proficiency Targets: From now on, states are required to set their own proficiency targets. They will also come up with a system of penalties for not meeting them. But the federal government will no longer require states to bring all kids to the proficient level on state tests. States also won’t have to meet federal targets for raising test scores. These changes will eliminate the harsh federal penalties schools faced under NCLB.

Comprehensive Literacy Center: The new law calls for the creation of a national center that focuses on reading issues for kids with disabilities. That includes dyslexia. The center will be a clearinghouse for information for parents and teachers.

Literacy Education Grant Program: The law authorizes Congress to give up to $160 million in literacy grants to states and schools. The grants will fund instruction on key reading skills, such as phonological awareness and .

Opt-Out: Opt-out is when parents decide not to have their child take a standardized test. The new law doesn’t create a federal opt-out option for parents. But it also doesn’t stop states from having their own opt-out laws if parents don’t want their children to take state tests.

With the new law, states will have a bigger role in holding schools accountable. You can find out about your state’s laws and policies through your state’s Parent Training and Information Center.

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