President Obama signed the “Every Student Succeeds” Act Thursday, an education-reform bill that passed both houses of Congress with rare bipartisan support. Every Student Succeeds wipes away most of No Child Left Behind, the massive federal-education law introduced under President Bush in 2001. It’s a substantial education overhaul, and at the signing ceremony, Obama called the fact that Republicans and Democrats agreed on a new plan — and actually worked together to get something done — a “Christmas miracle.”
Every Student Succeeds shifts power back to the states on education — the opposite of No Child Left Behind, which was seen as forcing “a one-size-fits-all” standard on school districts nationwide. Many education advocates, teachers, and administrators saw No Child Left Behind’s top-down approach, which stressed test scores above all else, as leaving failing schools — and students — in the lurch. The law itself failed to meet its intended goal: for every U.S. student to be at grade level in reading and math by 2014.
Under the new law, states, not the federal government, will have most of the say in how to assess students and hold teachers and schools accountable for performance. Federal testing requirements in math and reading aren’t being scraped, but the new law gives states greater flexibility in figuring out how to use those test scores in evaluating a school’s performance.
Despite the bipartisan support, Every Student Succeeds still has its critics. Some say the new law gives states way too much power, which runs the risk of state-education departments setting really low standards — and not having to truly answer for it. On the flip side, some conservatives say the law still allows for too much pesky federal-government interference, or even gives the state-education leaders — rather than local school districts — too much say. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz — who did not cast a Senate vote on the bill — bashed the new law for letting the federal government get too involved in education once again. According to Politico, fellow senators and presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders didn’t vote either; Rand Paul, who also is still running for president, voted against it.