Obama makes No Child Left Behind overhaul a reality

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the bill was signed on Thursday.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the long-anticipated update to No Child Left Behind, largely stripping the federal government of power over school districts.

Obama was surrounded by his outgoing education secretary Arne Duncan, Duncan’s successor, John King, key members of Congress and students in the White House ceremony, which came years after Congress had been gridlocked on an overhaul of the law, dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“This bill makes long-overdue fixes to the last education law, replacing the one-size-fits-all approach to reform with a commitment to provide every student with a well-rounded education,” Obama said in his remarks. “It creates real partnerships between the states, which will have new flexibility to tailor their improvement plans, and the federal government, which will have the oversight to make sure that the plans are sound.”

The bill, which passed by an 85-12 vote in the Senate on Wednesday, restores authority to local districts and states on a range of issues including school performance, standards and accountability. It will drastically limit the control that the presumptive education secretary, John King, will have over achievement measures, although existing testing requirements still stand.

The bill also has a heavier emphasis on technology and personalized learning, adding funding for state-mandated training for teachers in blended learning. It also will include district grants to be used for infrastructure and educational technology.

Officials from tech-friendly groups like the Consortium for School Networking applauded the passage, saying that it reaffirms commitment to and expansion of digital learning in schools.

“By investing in strengthening school system infrastructure, addressing digital equity, and building the capacity of school leaders, ESSA recognizes the promise of an e-learning environment for all students,” CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said in a statement. “We are excited to work with the education community and other stakeholders to ensure this law delivers on its commitment to enhancing teaching and learning.”

The Software & Information Industry Association also praised the sweeping overhaul of President George W. Bush’s signature education bill, which expired in 2007.

“The bipartisanship shown in the reauthorization of ESEA has been refreshing and will be a boon to states, schools, and students who have been facing uncertainty for the future for too long,” said Mark MacCarthy, senior vice president for public policy. “School software and content providers, as always, stand ready to help states and schools meet their responsibilities.”

The bill has faced a contentious road, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle squabbling about how much of a role the federal government should have in education. While Democrats stressed equity among schools, Republicans preferred to hand over control to states and districts.

“People did not agree on everything at the outset, but they were willing to listen to each other in a civil, constructive way, and to work through these issues, compromise where necessary, while still keeping their eye on the ball,” Obama said.

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com or follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.

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