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Federal replacement for NCLB passes Senate

The U.S. Senate this morning passed an updated version of the antiquated No Child Left Behind Act, putting more control in the hands of states and school districts and preserving the local governance authority of local school boards.

The vote was 85 to 12, and President Obama has said he will sign it into law.

Now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the law will replace the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which essentially defines the federal government’s role in K-12 public education.

The ESSA, which passed the House last week, goes in a distinctly different direction than NCLB, which set achievement goals for all schools and labeled them as “failing” when those goals were not met.

The new ESSA limits the federal government’s role and pushes decision-making around accountability to the state and individual schools districts.

States would still have to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, but get wide discretion in setting goals and determining how to hold schools and districts accountable. States would still have to identify their lowest 5 percent performing schools, but have latitude on interventions.

Standardized state tests are still part of the picture, but other factors will be considered, like school-climate and teacher engagement, or access to and success in advanced coursework.

Maine’s Independent Sen. Angus King was part of a tri-partisan coalition of senators that got a local governance clause included in the legislation, which pushes back against federal intrusion into school administration and requires local stakeholder involvement.

Maine School Boards Association Executive Director Dr. Connie Brown praised the efforts to protect the authority of local school boards.

“Local control is very important to the people of Maine, and we applaud Sen. King for his success in getting a local governance clause in ESSA. It respects the local school board’s authority to make decisions that are in the best interest of their students, staff, parents and taxpayers,” Brown said.

More information on the scope of ESSA and the differences between it and the old NCLB will be included in the upcoming editions of the MSBA Update Newsletter and the Maine School Superintendents Association Newsletter.

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