An excerpt:

Hear that collective whoop from the Capitol? That’s the sound of education advocates and lawmakers cheering at the finish line as the first rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in more than a dozen years sails through Congress and on to the White House. 

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved the rewrite of the withering No Child Left Behind Act—the current version of the ESEA—by a huge bipartisan margin, 85 to 12, mirroring the vote of 359 to 64 in the U.S. House of Representatives just days earlier. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill tomorrow.

But even as educators and policymakers toast the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the next set of battles—over how the measure will be regulated in Washington and implemented in states—may just be getting started. 

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., would roll back the federal footprint in K-12 education for the first time in nearly a quarter century, putting states in the driver’s seat when it comes to accountability, teacher evaluation, school turnarounds, and more.

At the same time, it seeks to maintain what Murray and Scott call important “guardrails” to fix flailing schools and help close the achievement gap between traditionally overlooked groups of students—those in poverty, racial minorities, students in special education, and English-language learners—and their peers. (Everything you ever wanted to know about the bill here.) 

Additional articles are here and here.

An excerpt:

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday approved a sweeping revision of the contentious No Child Left Behind law, sending to President Obama’s desk a proposal that ends an era of federal control in education policy after 14 years.

The legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 85 to 12, would restore authority for school performance and accountability to local districts and states after a lengthy period of aggressive federal involvement. While it keeps the existing annual testing requirements in reading and math and requires that states act to improve the lowest performing schools, it allows more local control to set goals, determine school ratings and decide remedial measures.

“I believe it inaugurates a new era of innovation and student achievement by putting the responsibility for children back in the hands of those closest to them: parents and classroom teachers, and others,” Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Education Committee, said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama is expected to sign the bill, the product of a conference committee of the House and Senate that passed easily in the House last week with bipartisan backing.

No Child Left Behind, George W. Bush’s signature education initiative, had passed with strong bipartisan support in 2001. It introduced high-stakes standardized testing to gauge students in reading and math from the third to eighth grades, with the ultimate goal of making every student proficient in those subjects by 2014.

But as time went on, more schools faced sanctions, including closings, as they failed to meet what turned out to be an unworkable expectation. Republicans and Democrats alike backed away from the law as it became apparent that its penalties for struggling schools were overly punitive.

To read the entire article, click here.

UPDATED

Christmas seems to have come early this year for education advocates. After weeks of long and hard negotiations, House and Senate lawmakers have reached preliminary agreement on a bill for the long-stalled re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, multiple sources say.

The agreement will set the stage for an official conference committee, which would likely kick off next week. The legislation could be on the floor of the House and Senate by the end of this month, or early next, sources say. (Nothing set in stone on timing just yet.) 

So far, the word isn’t official. Neither the House nor the Senate education committee has confirmed.

No hard-and-fast details available yet, although those are likely to trickle out in coming days. But if I were a betting woman, I’d put money down that there will be some language asking states to intervene in the bottom five percent of their schools, and schools with high drop-out rates.

No provision for so-called Title I “portability,” smart money says. (School choice fans might have something to cheer about anyway). And many smaller programs may have been rolled into a big giant block grant, according to folks familiar with earlier drafts of the proposal.

Sources familiar with previous versions of the agreement also say the odds are good that a new program for early childhood education made it into the compromise.

Some of the biggest sticking points towards the end of negotiations were said to be secretarial authority, authorizations, and accountability. So where did things end up?

We’ll find out soon enough for sure.

But the accountability provisions in earlier drafts were said to be pretty complicated, which makes sense, given the nature of bipartisan compromise.

“Based on what I’ve seen, for the next Secretary, interpreting the new law will be like looking at a Rorschach with one eye closed and with both hands tied behind their back,” said Charlie Barone, the policy director at Democrats for Education Reform, who served as an aide to Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House education committee, when NCLB was written.

But that complexity could actually be a boon to state and local control, especially since the compromise includes nearly all of the restrictions on the Secretary’s authority that were in the House and Senate versions.

“The complexity helps,” said a GOP aide. The agreement “leaves a lot of this to states to figure out and the secretary’s ability to interfere with those state decisions is astonishingly limited.”

UPDATE [Nov. 13, 10:20 am] Overall, everyone walked out of negotiations with his or her biggest priority intact, the aide said. “Everybody has a lot to be happy about,” said a GOP aide who participated in the negotiations.

  • Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., got her early childhood education program, which the Obama administration also really wanted, plus some additional accountability, including on subgroups.
  • Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, got many programs placed into a block grant.
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate committee, got limitations on secretarial authority. That includes new limits on teacher evaluations, turnarounds, tests, you name it.
  • And Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., got some beefed-up subgroup language, which Murray also fought very hard for. The administration also wanted to see some subgroup accountability.

So what’s in the bill?  To read the entire article, click here.