School officials, parents and lawmakers have long agreed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 was not working and needed an overhaul.
But how to fix it was a point of political gridlock. It took tact, persistence and political savvy to get it done, but thanks in large part to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a new education policy has been approved.
She worked closely with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to build bipartisan support for the new Every Child Succeeds Act, which should put an end to an unhealthy preoccupation with standardized tests.
That may be the most welcome change in the whole proposal. Testing still will be a requirement under the new plan, but it will be up to the states and local school districts to manage their own systems for measuring student achievement.
The one-size-fits-all national approach just didn’t work. Too many school districts ended up being labeled as failing even though they were considered successful at the state level and in their own communities.
The old act required adequate yearly progress and had a goal of all students being proficient in math and reading. The reality, however, is that there are always variables and results tend to dip from time to time, even if they are high. Schools could make great gains in test scores, but if they weren’t large enough, they were labeled as "failing."
Thankfully, that should not be the case any more, as it will be up to the state officials to come up with their own assessment plans. We hope they will reflect stringent, yet realistic standards.
In addition to changes in testing requirements, the new education act also increases funding for early education and English-learner programs and offers more support for schools in tribal communities. The new education act also no longer requires that states must meet federal guidelines or else risk losing control of Title 1 money.
This is good news for school districts everywhere, but especially in Washington, where about $40 million should be restored statewide after we lost our waiver last year. That includes $300,000 for the Richland School District, nearly $678,000 in Kennewick and about $1 million in Pasco.
While the details of the new plan remain to be seen, lawmakers and school officials seem generally pleased with the compromise, which is encouraging.
Certain elements of the old plan remain, and that is a good thing. Its goals were worthwhile, but its implementation was harsh and unattainable. Allowing school officials to strive for high education standards while at the same time tweaking the mechanics of how to get there seems like a good compromise.
Senators Murray and Alexander worked for months on this proposal, and we are glad to see they were able to gather enough bipartisan support to make it happen.