No Child Left Behind's replacement faces implementation challenges

Nearly eight years overdue, No Child Left Behind has finally been replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by President Obama last week. Now, education reformers have turned their attention to ensuring the law is implemented as smoothly as possible.

Burdened by almost 14 years of federal prescriptions and waiver requests, school districts will gain increased flexibility in their policies as the law is implemented. The challenge for the Department of Education lies in trying to release definitions and clarifications of federal rules while complying with new limitations.

After years of waivers granted on condition of Obama-favored education reforms, Congress was eager to limit executive overreach. Congress included many restrictions on the secretary of education in the new law.

The new law gives states more power over what to do with failing schools, although it requires the creation of some state-designed plans to identify and reform failing schools. Federally-required tests are no longer tied to any federal consequences. The bill also prohibits the Department of Education from giving states special positive or negative incentives to adopt specific academic standards, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been doing with Common Core using waivers from No Child Left Behind.

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