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Friday, February 1, 2013

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as Amended by the No Child Left Behind Act: A Primer

Rebecca R. Skinner
Specialist in Education Policy

The primary source of federal aid to K-12 education is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), particularly its Title I, Part A program of Education for the Disadvantaged. The ESEA was initially enacted in 1965 (P.L. 89-10), and was most recently amended and reauthorized by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB, P.L. 107-110). The NCLB authorized virtually all ESEA programs through FY2008. It is widely expected that the 113th Congress will consider whether to amend and extend the ESEA.

The NCLB initiated a major expansion of federal influence upon several aspects of public K-12 education, primarily with the aim of increasing the accountability of public school systems and individual public schools for improving achievement outcomes of all students, especially the disadvantaged. States must implement in all public schools and school districts a variety of standards-based assessments in reading, math and science; make complex annual adequate yearly progress (AYP) determinations for each public school and district; and require virtually all public school teachers and aides to meet a variety of qualification requirements. State AYP policies must incorporate an ultimate goal of all public school students reaching a proficient or higher level of achievement by the end of the 2013-14 school year. Further, participating states must enforce a series of increasingly substantial consequences for most of their schools and almost all school districts that fail to meet the AYP standards for two consecutive years or more. All of these requirements are associated with state participation in the ESEA Title I-A program.

Other major ESEA programs provide grants to support the education of migrant students; recruitment of and professional development for teachers; language instruction for limited English proficient students; drug abuse prevention programs; after-school instruction and care; expansion of charter schools and other forms of public school choice; education services for Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native students; Impact Aid to compensate local educational agencies for taxes foregone due to certain federal activities; and a wide variety of innovative educational approaches or instruction to meet particular student needs.

While Congress has not enacted legislation to reauthorize the ESEA, the Administration has made available an ESEA flexibility package that waives various academic accountability requirements, teacher qualification-related requirements, and funding flexibility requirements that were enacted through NCLB. In exchange for these waivers, states must agree to meet four principles established by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for “improving student academic achievement and increasing the quality of instruction.” The four principles, as stated by ED, are as follows: (1) college- and career-ready expectations for all students; (2) state-developed differentiated recognition, accountability, and support; (3) supporting effective instruction and leadership; and (4) reducing duplication and unnecessary burden.

Taken collectively, the waivers and principles included in the ESEA flexibility package amount to a fundamental redesign by the Administration of many of the accountability and teacher-related requirements included in current law. As of December 2012, ED had approved ESEA flexibility package applications for 34 states and the District of Columbia and was reviewing applications from several other states. If Congress considers ESEA reauthorization during the 113
th Congress, it is possible that provisions included in any final bill may be similar to or override the waivers and principles established by the Administration.

Date of Report: January 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL33960
Price: $29.95

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