Education Law Rewrite Passes Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Those federally mandated math and reading tests will continue, but a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s education law will now give states — not the U.S. government — authority to decide how to use the results in evaluating teachers and schools.

The Senate on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly, 85-12, to approve legislation rewriting the landmark No Child Left Behind education law of 2002. On Thursday, President Barack Obama will sign it into law.

One key feature of NCLB remains: Public-school students will still take the federally required statewide reading and math exams. But the new law encourages states to limit the time students spend on testing, and it will diminish the high stakes for underperforming schools.

“You’ll see states taking the opportunity to serve kids better, meaning it’s not just a conversation about labeling schools but also a conversation about when a school’s not doing right by kids,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The new law will give states flexibility to focus on additional measures such as graduation rates, Minnich said in an interview.

There are risks that states may set goals too low or not act quickly enough, said Daria Hall, vice president for government affairs and communication at the Education Trust. But she also said that “those risks are also really opportunities for states to really step up to the plate and be leaders.”