Obama signs No Child Left Behind replacement into law

(UPDATED, 3 p.m., with remarks from the State Board of Education meeting.)

The No Child Left Behind era officially comes to a close Thursday, as President Obama signed into law a new federal education overhaul.

ObamaBSU1
On Thursday, President Obama hailed the bipartisan effort to replace No Child Left Behind. “After more than 10 years, members of Congress from both parties have come together to revise our national education law.” (Idaho Education News file photo.)

The Every Student Succeeds Act passed both houses with overwhelming bipartisan support. Wednesday’s Senate vote was 85-12 — and after that vote, Obama wasted no time taking action.

“I’m proud to sign a law that will make sure every student is prepared to succeed,” Obama said Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, the White House panned the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, saying it “was too often a burden rather than a help” in achieving education reform.

Under ESSA, states will be responsible for developing their own school accountability metrics — and the law underscores states’ role in establishing academic standards. While the White House says the new law will “reduce the often onerous burden of unnecessary and ineffective testing,” a key federal testing requirement will remain on the books. States will still have to administer standardized tests in third through eighth grade, and once in high school.

(Click here for a White House fact sheet on ESSA.)

In a statement after the bill signing, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra hailed ESSA as a “fresh start” for Idaho schools.

“This is a strong first step away from punitive measures and towards increased flexibility for local school districts,” Ybarra said.

Fellow Republicans in Idaho’s congressional delegation were more skeptical. Rep. Mike Simpson was the lone member of Idaho’s congressional delegation to support ESSA. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Raul Labrador all said the bill didn’t go far enough to ensure state sovereignty over education.

Idaho’s NCLB waiver: Later on Thursday, Ybarra and Peter Zamora, director of federal relations for the Council of Chief State School Officers, told the State Board of Education that Idaho’s existing waiver from No Child Left Behind will remain in effect until August 2016.

Ybarra then urged members of the board to hold off on reviewing and drafting a new state model of educational accountability, a task which the board originally planned to begin working on next month.

“There is going to be a transition time … there will be a pause while we try get through this piece,” Ybarra said.

Idaho’s accountability measures have been on hold throughout Ybarra’s entire first year as state superintendent. State officials “pushed the pause button” on the old five-star rating system, created by Ybarra’s predecessor, Tom Luna.

Under the new legislation Obama signed Thursday, Idaho’s accountability measures will be on hold for at least another year and a half, Zamora said. After the existing waiver expires in August, the 2016-17 school year will also be counted as a “transition” year, he said.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this article.