After more than a decade under the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states finally have regained control over student testing after Congress earlier this year repealed the legislation and passed the replacement Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Barack Obama signed Dec. 10.
The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush, required that states administer exams in math and English for grades three through eight and once in high school, as well as a science-proficiency test at the elementary-, middle- and high-school levels.
The intent was to make schools accountable that students weren’t falling behind. Critics argue that while the law’s intentions may have been good, they forced educators to teach to the test and not to individual students’ potential.
If a paticular school failed to deliver acceptable test scores within five years, the state was required to step in; consequences ranged from firing the principal, firing staff, converting to a charter school, lengthening the school day or year or closing entirely.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have been handed control over how and when to test. For example, a school can administer several small tests rather than one test and can choose to give the tests when students are deemed best prepared.
While, the new legislation has only been in force for less than a month, any number of educators are voicing support for it.
“We are pleased that the United States Congress has passed the Every Student Succeeds Act,” Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said by email. “This critical legislation — which essentially replaces No Child Left Behind — gives Oklahoma education stakeholders at the state and local level the authority and responsibility they have long sought. ... I applaud the efforts of our federal delegation who fought to limit federal over-reach and strengthen state control of teacher evaluation, assessment, academic standards, accountability and innovation.”
So what does this mean for local schools?
“The Every Student Succeeds Act continues to focus on student achievement,” Lone Grove Public Schools Superintendent Meri Jayne Miller said. “States will still have to test students and be held accountable, but get discretion in setting goals, figuring out just what to hold schools and districts accountable for and deciding how to intervene in low-performing schools. While tests still have to be a part of the state accountability systems, other factors must be incorporated that give students opportunities to learn, such as school climate, teacher engagement and access to advanced coursework.
“A big switch from the No Child Left Behind waivers is that there is no role for the feds in teacher evaluation. States will no longer have to link teacher evaluations through student outcomes, as they did under waivers. No Child Left Behind’s “highly qualified teacher” requirement would be a thing of the past.
“We are ready for the dust to settle from the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and put applications in place for our students to be as successful as possible within the classroom and in life.”
Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Sonny Bates supports the change.
“It gives us more latitude on testing,” he said. “Federal control is given to the districts and states over what standards to use or not use. It’s a really good thing. (However), we’re staying with what we have for now. We will be reviewing and making modifications as soon as we return from (the winter holiday) break.”
He said the Ardmore school board will be discussing the new legislation and its potential impact during its Jan. 12 meeting.
Dickson Public Schools Superintendent Larry Case is optimistic.
“We feel like going forward it’ll be a good thing,” he said. “We’re waiting to see how it shakes out at a local level. It frees up some things with state and local control.
“I’m excited to see how it effects testing.”