Diane Ravitch - Mercedes Schneider is one of the few people who have read all (or almost all) of the 1,000 page plus behemoth that is the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Her latest post provides valuable new information. This legislation was passed out of the Senate-House conference committee and is likely to move swiftly for full approval by both houses in the next few days or weeks. ESSA would replace No Child Left Behind, which should have been reauthorized eight years ago. It also kills off Race to the Top by stripping the Secretary of any power to impose his ideas about how to reform schools on districts and states.
The big change is the reduction in the role of the federal Department of Education. This is the first big downsizing of the federal role since the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed. There are strict limitations on the power of the Secretary to meddle in state or local education matters. The shrinking of the federal role is Arne Duncan’s legacy.
Mercedes points out that the law is still mired in the testing-and-accountability mindset but oversight and responsibility shifts is from the federal ED to local and state governments. She says the bill is “test-centric.”
But there are some very good things in the bill. It puts an end to the hated No Child Left Behind and the failed Race to the Top. The bill eliminates AYP and Duncan’s waivers. States can drop out of Common Core without any penalty. No more teacher evaluation by test scores unless the states want to do it. Bill Gates will no longer have the Department of Education mandating his latest ideas. No more federal mandates about how to reform schools.
I know that many readers would like the law to go farther. I would like to see an end to annual testing, a practice unknown in the high-performing nations of the world. I would like to see stipulations about charter accountability and transparency. But that’s not there.
Nonetheless, I support the bill because it gets rid of a terrible, failed law and a terrible, failed program. The Bush-Obama era is over. Now the fight for a humane education system shifts to the states. In some states, that may seem like a herculean task. But the fact is that parents and educators have a greater chance of being heard by their state legislators than by the White House and Congress.