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New Education Law Passes, With A Power Shift Back To The States

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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., (right) and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to end debate on the makeover of the widely criticized No Child Left Behind Act.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Senate voted 85-12 on Wednesday to pass the long-awaited rewrite of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law. President Obama says he’ll sign it Thursday.

The new version — called the Every Student Succeeds Act — returns much government oversight of schools to the states and curtails or eliminates the federal role in many areas. Critics of NCLB are celebrating its demise.

But the question now is, what exactly are states and local school districts going to do that they couldn’t do before?

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President Obama Signs Education Law, Leaving ‘No Child’ Behind

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President Obama called it “a Christmas miracle. A bipartisan bill signing right here.”

The “right here” was the South Court Auditorium, part of the White House complex. More importantly, the bipartisan bill being signed was the Every Student Succeeds Act — a long-overdue replacement of the unpopular federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The new law changes much about the federal government’s role in education, largely by scaling back Washington’s influence. While ESSA keeps in place the basic testing requirements of No Child Left Behind, it strips away many of the high stakes that had been attached to student scores.

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No Child Left Behind: An Obituary

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LA Johnson/NPR

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday on replacing the nation’s big education law, known since 2001 as No Child Left Behind.

And President Obama is expected to sign the new version, ending an era marked by bitter fights between the federal government, states and schools.

So as it dies, we thought an obituary was in order.

Yup, an obituary. Because the law’s critics and defenders all agree on one thing: No Child Left Behind took on a life of its own.

Actually, they agree on one other thing, too: “If No Child Left Behind was a person, he or she should have died a long time ago.” That’s how outgoing U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan puts it. “It’s about time to finish it off and to bury it. And to do something much better.”

NCLB was expected to expire of old age in 2007, but Congress couldn’t find a replacement. So the law hung on.

While most folks are now happy to see it go, NCLB wasn’t always this reviled.

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House Set To Vote On Education Overhaul

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House Speaker Paul Ryan leaves a meeting of the House Republican conference at the U.S. Capitol. The House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s almost a decade overdue, but the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law.

Since NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002, the federal government has played a major role in telling states how to run — and reform — their schools. But this new bill signals a sea change in the federal approach.

Annual tests in math and reading, the centerpiece of the old law, would remain in place. But the consequences of those test scores would no longer be dictated by the federal government. The new law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, significantly shifts responsibility for improving schools back to the states.

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To Measure What Tests Can’t, Some Schools Turn To Surveys

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Stuart Kinlough/Corbis

Last year, Susan Avey, the principal of Bogle Junior High School in Chandler, Ariz., had a heart-to-heart with one of her new teachers about how he was relating to students.

In a previous year, this might have been a conversation based on subjective impressions. The teacher might have gotten defensive. But this year, Avey had a new tool up her sleeve: a survey of her students.

“He came in to talk to me and said, ‘I felt like I had really good relationships with kids, but reading my comments, I was surprised that I wasn’t rated as highly.’ ”

Drilling down into the results, they found that the teacher’s relationships with girls, specifically, were weaker than those with the boys. The teacher was also a coach, and it turned out he liked to use a lot of sports analogies in class. Maybe that habit was missing the mark with non-sports enthusiasts?

This little data-driven aha moment is happening more often at schools around the country.

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4 concerns with applying education research in schools and how to address them

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One of the great concerns of some teachers is school leaders going to conferences. Concerns may be aired as, “what are they [the leader] going to bring back this time for us to do?” Another concern may be of the school leader who likes to read books about education in their summer vacation. Again, concerned voices can be heard saying, “what great finding are they going to share with us and ask us to implement this time?” When education consultants and keynotes speakers are brought in to work with schools, similar types of concerned reactions can occur. Note that depending on the situation, all, most, some, or just a few teachers may display an element of concern.

So what lies behind these concerns? Here are four possibilities:

  1. Could it be that teachers are fearing yet another new initiative?
  2. Could it be that teachers do not understand why engaging in this new learning / idea / initiative is important?
  3. Could it be that teachers do not respect the educational research / ideas presented?
  4. Could it be that teachers do not view what the leader is asking them to engage with as important; the teacher(s) have other priorities?

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