After months of anticipation—and nearly a decade of neglect—No Child Left Behind’s demise is closer than ever to becoming a reality. The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a much-anticipated bill that would remake the 50-year-old law on which No Child Left Behind is based, ending a chapter in which the federal government was the key decision-maker at local schools.
The new law—the Every Child Achieves Act—would give much of that decision-making power back to states. Instead of the feds, state-level officials would determine how to assess academic performance, what counts as a struggling school, and which mechanisms to use to hold educators accountable for achievement. No more top-down reforms. No more mandatory interventions. No more Washington, D.C., bureaucrats stepping on the toes of local policymakers and educators who are much more in tune with their communities’ needs.
Right? Of course not. There’s plenty of important nuance here, and the legislative tug-of-war is just getting started. But the optimism—and celebration on social media—is justified, if only because it’s a rare example of successful bipartisan collaboration in Congress. It’s even more extraordinary given the recent years of partisan gridlock on the issue: Since 2007, Congress had failed to address No Child Left Behind’s original law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Despite No Child Left Behind’s horrible reputation, including among everyday Americans and even childless adults, the law stayed in place year after year.