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The No Child Left Behind Act promised to improve student achievement across America.

But contrary to what its name implied, NCLB failed miserably to live up to expectations and as of December, it became obsolete when President Barack Obama signed a new student achievement initiative into law.

Good bye NCLB. Hello, Every Student Succeeds Act.

“I’m glad that NCLB is gone,” Science teacher Susan Cooper said.

It is anybody’s guess how ESSA will impact education, but there is always room for optimism even in the midst of uncertainty.

“I’m skeptical about how [ESSA] is going to play out,” Cooper said.

Alvaro Franco, Assistant Principal is also skeptical about the new initiative.

“I think that any kind of replacement should be very specific and defined. I think that both [acts] are kind of vague.” Franco said.

On December 10, 2015, Obama signed ESSA into law, the new law that will replace NCLB, which  was largely criticized by educators and lawmakers alike for its approach to student testing and intervention, as well as the federal government’s power over education.  Should a school fail to improve their test scores after 5 years, the school was left with the following choices to remedy it: convert to a charter school, lengthen the school day or year, fire the principal and most of the staff, or close down the school entirely.

NCLB was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. The bill’s overall purpose was to ensure that every child meets the learning standards of the state he or she lives in as wel as graduate.

The new ESSA will preserve what was dubbed the “spirit” of NCLB by USA Today. As in it will maintain the same goals and intentions that NCLB had, but with a different approach.

“The goals of No Child Left Behind, the predecessor of this law, were the right ones: High standards. Accountability. Closing the achievement gap,” President Barack Obama had said on the day of signing the ESSA into law according to USA Today. “But in practice, it often fell short. It didn’t always consider the specific needs of each community. It led to too much testing during classroom time. It forced schools and school districts into cookie-cutter reforms that didn’t always produce the kinds of results that we wanted to see.”   

So the big question is: what will change?

The ESSA will replace NCLB’s one-size-fits-all approach, and will be replaced with a more flexible approach to school accountability and student testing. States will be given a restored responsibility of determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes, and will be required to include tests in their accountability systems, which they are also responsible for creating.  States also  determine how to best approach a way to improve the bottom 5 percent of schools.

George Moore, science teacher, who witnessed the crisis of NCLB’s approach to remedying under-performing schools during his time teaching at Tennyson High School, is also glad that NCLB is no longer put into law. He welcomes ESSA with open arms.  

“The ESSA is a huge improvement over NCLB. NCLB was a punitive piece of legislation that did start some good ideas but ultimately it failed.” Moore said. “ It relied too much on emphasizing tests.”  Under NCLB, it was required that states test schools on a yearly basis for every grade level.

Moore describes the atmosphere during his time at Tennyson High School under the reign of NCLB.

“I was at Tennyson–it was the lowest scoring school in the district and the feeling there under NCLB was ‘Oh they’re going to dismantle us. We’re going to lose our tenure.’”

Due to the risk of unemployment, Moore transferred from Tennyson to Hayward High School.

“If you were a low performing school and if the test scores didn’t go up, you’d get this many chances, and when you were laid off you were done. The district couldn’t rehire you.” Moore said. “I can’t risk my career. I taught for 30 years and if they [didn’t] make their goals or get another new principal, I was going to lose my job.”

Franco hopes that the new act will live up to its promise.

“Doing whatever it takes to ensure that every student succeeds and what are we going to do when what we are provided is not working. That’s my expectation.” Franco said.  “As a school, as a district, as a state, and as a country.”  

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