Farewell, No Child Left Behind?

As we have reported, after a lengthy stalemate, a bipartisan team of congressional negotiators has agreed to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The law, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), sends roughly $14 billion a year in federal assistance to public schools serving low-income students.

The overhaul,  known officially as a reauthorization, of the primary federal education law is long overdue. Actual language of the overhaul bill is not likely to be released until next week at the earliest.

But here’s what we know about the rough agreement (in layperson’s terms). First, annual testing — a major feature of NCLB — would remain for grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Schools would still have to test 95 percent of their students and report the results by subgroup (i.e., by race, income and special need, etc.).

As for what would change, the U.S. education secretary could no longer push for academic standards like the Common Core or mandate that teachers be evaluated based on things like student test scores.

But the biggest change lawmakers are proposing is this: They want the federal government out of the business of identifying failing schools, leaving that tough job to states. Each state would come up with its own plan to help schools improve, its own deadlines and its own metrics to measure that improvement. If schools don’t improve, states would have to figure out what to do.

Given the Wisconsin Legislature’s inability to unite on an accountability framework for all publicly funded students, this could make for an interesting situation.

A compromise bill will soon move to the full House and Senate before it can make its way to President Obama. Stay tuned for more details.