Secretary Duncan: “Finally a Fix to No Child Left Behind”

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Summary: The Every Child Succeeds Act, the bipartisan bill to revise and revamp No Child Left Behind, passes the House with bipartisan support.

Yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent the message below to the White House email list, telling people about the progress made to revise & replace No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act will reduce over-testing and one-size-fits all mandates for schools across the country.

Didn’t get the email? Sign up for updates here.

If you’re like me, you probably dread an overdue notice, whether it’s for registering your car or returning a library book. For nearly a decade, our national K-12 education law has been overdue for revision, and parents, teachers and students across the country have made it clear that it is time for a reboot.

Over that period of time, America’s fourth graders became today’s high school seniors — ready to graduate and embrace a bright future. The students who come behind them deserve a better law focused on one clear goal of fully preparing them for success in college and future careers.

Although well-intended, the No Child Left Behind Act — the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — has long been broken. We can no longer afford that law’s one-size-fits-all approach, uneven standards, and low expectations for our educational system. That’s why, early on, President Obama and I joined educators and families calling on Congress to fix its flaws in this outdated law.

When Congress didn’t act, we did — providing relief from the most onerous elements of the law for states and school districts willing to embrace reform.

But yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives finally answered the overdue notice and took action to revise and replace No Child Left Behind. This bipartisan plan — the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — is good news for our nation’s schools. It is a compromise that builds on the work already underway in states to raise expectations for students and to help them graduate college and career-ready. The bill reflects many of the priorities we’ve put forward over the last six and a half years.

See how far we’ve come since 2009.

Today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. That’s thanks to educators across the country.

ESSA will help cement that progress. All students will be taught to high learning standards that will prepare them for success in college and career. More children will have access to high-quality preschool, delivering educational opportunity earlier for our nation’s youngest learners.


Educators will have more flexibility and support to develop their own systems for improving schools. However, ESSA maintains critical guardrails, especially for the schools and groups of students that are furthest behind.

And with new resources for states to review and reduce the burden of standardized testing, ESSA will enable a smarter approach to eliminating unnecessary tests so that teachers can spend more time ensuring that all students are learning, while still following their progress each academic year and providing critical information for parents about their child’s performance.

As the President has said, education is the civil rights issue of our time. Every American deserves an equal opportunity to succeed, so every child in America — regardless of zip code — deserves a fair shot at a great education. I hope the Senate acts swiftly, so we can all move forward on behalf of our nation’s children.




  1. It’s sad and tragic that it has taken almost 10 years for NCLB to be reauthorized, and don’t read me wrong I am as happy as the next
    parent all over the country about the advent of ESSA (Every Student Shall
    Succeed). But, there’s one realization about the power matrix that runs
    our public schools and which is silent on many occasions when other sectors like principals, teachers, and union officials, start talking about and planning on what to do in salvaging our under performing schools and making high school graduation and career accessibility a tangible reality for disadvantaged youngsters who live inside declining economic communities which encompass their target neighborhoods. Poor people are not proportionately represented on the advisory bodies and policy committees of State Department of Education, Regional Offices, and local Board of Trustees. Why is it that this society is so blind and ignorant to the fact that poor people know the needs of their children and families better than anyone else! And we’re going to go around and around in circles and waste millions if we don’t have a radical change of mind in our paradigm thought. School Site Councils and PTA (s) can’t work together because no one can understand the class divide that exist in some of the most challenging school districts in our urban inner cities. In the immediate future starting with the consultation that still has to manifest in the enactment of ESSA there’s going to be a tremendous need for parent advocates who have poverty credentials to step up to the plate and knock a few of them out-of-the-park and energize the public (fan base) that there’s a remarkable degree of communication skills that reside with those black fathers who are missing from the growing forum of those who can contribute the most but are never asked or sought after to be part of the solution. By the way, black males are less than 2% of public school teachers in America but blacks are more than 33 1/3% of
    our prison population that’s nurtured and sustained by the inefficient public school system that’s located in the inner city of urban and rural America. Final Note: District and school affiliates that are located in this
    institutionalized degradation have been estimated by the Obama Administration to be at least 5,000. How much longer can America
    resist this kind of mounting pressure before everything blows up?

  2. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is definitely needed in our country! Also needed is help for parents to become not only the first, but the best teachers of their children in support of classroom teaching and learning. Check out the comprehensive book (to be published 28 February 2016): YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S BEST TEACHER: A HOLISTIC GUIDE TO LINK HOME AND SCHOOL. This is a practical, innovative and thought-provoking guide to help parents and families empower themselves for more family well-being which can engender more academic achievement and success for their children. We need to acknowledge that families, as society’s basic social unit, are important to our nation’s functioning since they are responsible for preparing children for future success before, and while, children attend schools. All school stakeholders or people with interests in education and schooling (whether they have children in school or not) need to evolve so they can better support the context of today’s fast-paced and global-reaching living, teaching and learning for a better nation which impacts the world! Dr. Mapp

  3. Catch22 disability rights legislation?
    An important step would be to stop the discrimination contained in the ADA laws itself. Stipulating a disabled student express an interest in participating in sports at a secondary school as a requirement for the university to comply was never thought through. Why would a student apply to a college that doesn’t offer what they need? Hence the catch 22. So, the disabled athlete goes to a school that already has an ongoing robust adaptive sports program. BTW why put this additional burden of negotiating with the university on a disabled student? In like fashion you wouldn’t expect a HS football player to go to a college and tell the school to build a team for him? But, let’s say a disabled student did decide to go to a university and expressed an interest in disabled sports, would they be able to put a program together before the student graduate? Who else would be on his team?

    • Does the associated branch of the govt ever reply to these comments or do the think we are just happy to vent?

    • Does the associated branch of the govt ever reply to these comments, I hope this feature is not just for venting.

  4. Adults may need small learning communities to enhance this project. Helping the student and the teacher to achieve the new goals may require help at home. Does anyone else believe that a learning community would help the adults to help the children?

  5. This approach to equitable 21st century learning, will better prepare youngsters to achieve, succeed, and excel in life beyond high school, college and career-oriented, and equipped for competent global citizenship. Our actions today shape the future of tomorrow for children and families.

    Let’s continue to design clear pathways that enable students to become collaborative decision makers; mindful leaders, not mindless followers; culture creators, not culture consumers alone; influencers of culture, without simply navigators of life influenced by culture.

  6. It would be refreshing one day to have a government project, bill, action, etc. discussed and reported without a political slant. Why do you constantly spout all the “wonderful” things Obama had done throughout this article? Just talk about the changes being made! And I’m not even an Obama-hater, just tired of all the slant from both sides of the aisle.

  7. Mr. Duncan:
    I congratulate you & the Dept. Of Edu. For the strides made over the past years in our schools. As your “Chicago mentor” I was proud to be part of your team, as an administrator inCabrini schools & to see advancement through staff, student, & family effort & support. NCLB needed revision some time ago & we communicated that fact many times. Now to see the House of Representatives has moved to do so with ESSA should be applauded by everyone, especially those of us who were “in the trenches” so many years (my total is 50+)! Even though we retire, we really never retire from meeting the goals of having our children in education, career choice, & living in our communities. Thank you for your service to our country, in particular, our schools. My best holiday wishes to you, your wife & family. Take care, my friend.

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