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.
ESSA still requires states to focus special attention on the bottom 5 percent of struggling schools, especially those with the highest dropout rates. States would also still be held accountable for closing achievement gaps between low-and high- income students.
But the new bill has no single definition of proficiency like NCLB's much-maligned "adequate yearly progress." Instead, each state would come up with its own deadlines for schools to improve, its own methods of improvement, and its own metrics to measure that improvement.
Those metrics would include test scores, of course, but could also incorporate graduation rates, attendance, behavior, surveys of student engagement (as California's CORE districts are currently trying) and student work like projects and presentations (as New Hampshire is piloting).
If you've got a few free hours, here's the bill itself. For more of our coverage of NCLB and ESSA, see below.