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How New “no child left behind” Will Affect Black and Poor Kids

By Bo Thornton

Federal lawmakers have released the final draft of a compromise bill to rewrite the controversial No Child Left Behind.  It includes language outlining how the nation’s K-12 schools would be judged.  It also addresses how struggling schools would be improved if the legislation passes.

The bill, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, would shift authority from the federal government to states and local school districts.  Giving local officials far more power to define what it means for a school to be successful and make decisions on how and when to intervene in schools that continue to fail to make the grade.

This legislation attempts to appease both conservatives who want to shrink the federal government’s footprint in education and civil rights advocates who worry that some states, left to their own devices, will ignore the poor performance of schools serving low-income and minority students.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act:

Testing would remain in place. States would still be required to test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.  The scores would be publicly reported according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether students are English-language learners.

States would be allowed to set their own individual academic goals. where No Child Left Behind set forth one goal for the entire nation.   Test scores still matter, but how much they matter is left up to each individual state. States would be empowered with designing systems for judging schools.

What should be done in schools that are struggling will be up to states and districts.

If students will be able to opt out of testing will be left up to the state.

The wording of the newly released bill is based on a framework agreed to this month by a conference committee composed of lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress.

There is broad support for ditching No Child Left Behind.  The new bipartisan bill has won endorsements from the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National PTA and the National Governors Association. The nation’s two largest teachers unions applauded the conference committee’s framework for compromise last week as well.

It’s a true compromise where everyone got at least some of what they were hoping for, but no one is completely satisfied. Conservatives succeeded in limiting the education secretary’s authority over the nation’s 100,000 public schools.  Members of the civil rights caucus succeeded in winning stronger federal protections for disadvantaged kids than existed in earlier versions of the bill that passed the House and Senate.

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