Advocacy Update: Congress Reaches Bipartisan Deal on ESEA

By Gail Connelly
November 2015, Volume 39, Issue 3

Despite years of false starts, congressional education leaders have finally reached an agreement to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known as No Child Left Behind. Last week, the conference committee passed a final framework to overhaul the outdated law, which will now be turned into a bill that the House and Senate will consider early in December after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Over the past eight years, NAESP has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill on behalf of the nation’s pre-K-8 principals to address the many challenges that educators have faced due to onerous and one-size-fits-all accountability, misguided school improvement schemes, and little to no capacity-building provided for educators to ensure the success of every child. At this time, NAESP is pleased with the conference framework and the direction of the nation’s largest federal education program, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. While NAESP is waiting to analyze the full legislative text once it is available on November 30, this summary provides an overview of the deal between Democrats and Republicans and will give you the full picture of the impact on schools and students.

NAESP is pleased to point to the new system of accountability that the agreement will put into place. We believe it will put an end to test-and-punish policies and provide greater emphasis on state-developed multiple measures, including student growth. The deal will require new state systems to retain subgroup accountability, annual testing, and several key programs. In addition, states must conduct audits of their assessment systems and work with educators—namely principals—to strike a better balance on the number of assessments that schools must administer.


We are also excited to report that other areas of the agreement include issues championed by NAESP on behalf of principals, including:

Greater professional learning opportunities for principals through a new reservation of funds states can use to address the needs of school leaders in Title II;

  • A revised National Activities set-aside program to support principals consistent with our signature legislation introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), the Principal Recruitment and Training Act;
  • Preservation of programs that are targeted for student success, such as after school, arts-integration, student support services to address student mental health and well-being, the Community Schools program, literacy, STEM, and funds for technology support and professional learning;
  • Inclusion of early learning coordinating services and support for important work to align pre-K-3 standards, curriculum, and instruction with specific recognition for the role of elementary principals; and
  • Authorization of the Preschool Development Grants, which will provide a lever for states to expand high quality early learning for all three- and four-year-old children.


As we move to the final stages of putting an end to No Child Left Behind policies that have dogged schools, we will continue to urge Congress to pass a final conference bill—and for the president to sign it into law as it will provide a 50-state solution and one track for states on federal policy. NAESP will continue to monitor and report on the final developments through our ESEA Blogpost, which we encourage you to review.

We look forward to providing you with the final analysis on the new ESEA in the coming weeks once the final bill is passed and signed into law.

Gail Connelly is executive director of NAESP.

Copyright © 2015. National Association of Elementary School Principals. No part of the articles in NAESP magazines, newsletters, or website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the National Association of Elementary School Principals. For more information, view NAESP’s reprint policy.

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