Last week, after a seven-year delay, Congress overwhelmingly voted, and the president signed, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, dubbed No Child Left Behind in 2002, and now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This new law fixes some problems but creates others, especially for children who struggle the most.
The new law ends the NCLB requirement that states look almost exclusively at test scores to determine whether and how to reward or sanction schools, and also ends the Race To The Top requirement that states use tests that are linked to the Common Core State Standards in order to evaluate and reward or punish not only students and schools, but also teachers. This is good news, because the research clearly shows how an obsession with raising test scores leads to “teaching to the test,” narrowing and dumbing-down what we teach, especially for struggling students who are in most need of a richer and more rigorous curriculum. Assessment experts have long argued that using test scores for such decision making lacks validity and reliability, and we should stop doing so.