The Top 10 Politics K-12 Blog Posts of 2015: Yes, ESSA Dominates
It's that magical time of year when we revisit the ten most-read blog posts on Politics K-12 in 2015. This year, nearly all of them came in one big avalanche, at the end of the year.
That's because it's been less than a month since President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, the first reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 13 years, and less than two months since we broke the news of a deal to reauthorize ESEA. As you can imagine, we've been pretty occupied with ESSA news and analysis at the end of this year—and our readers have been pretty busy reading about it.
So without further ado, here are the most-read posts we wrote in 2015.
No surprise here: This is the post where we explain all the key elements of the new federal education law. It deals with school turnarounds, the new power states will have to set academic goals for schools, and the lack of any federal requirements for teacher evaluations. At the risk of tooting our own horn, it's a go-to resource on this new law.
Dec. 10 was the day President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law. The president praised the bipartisan work that went into crafting the bill. While the legislation got the backing of many groups and coasted through Congress, it got mixed reviews from the civil rights community.
This was actually not an ESSA post—or at least ESSA didn't officially exist when this was published. It deals with the Senate's vote back in July to reauthorize ESEA. The Senate bill differed in several notable ways from the ESEA reauthorization the House passed before that.
Published before the official ESSA bill was released, the post detailed how ESSA would be a dramatic departure from the No Child Left Behind Act on several key accountability issues. For example, ESSA required states to intervene in the bottom 5 percent of schools, but didn't tell states what those interventions had to be.
We got our hands on a draft copy of the legislation before it was finalized. This draft contained language, for example, specifying that the NCLB waivers handed out by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would be null and void on July 1, 2016.
The House passed ESSA a few days before this vote, but this was the vote that sealed congressional approval for the bill. Before the vote, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. and a key architect of the bill, praised the compromises that helped get the legislation off the ground.
After extensive negotiations over several months after the House and Senate passed their own ESEA reauthorizations, this was the sign there had been a breakthrough, and that there was a strong chance for a new federal education law to become reality. We got our hands on the agreement and brought it to you.
Duncan had been at his post since 2009, and he lasted longer than any other member of Obama's cabinet except for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Duncan wielded a great deal of power during his tenure, through programs like Race to the Top and waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act. Duncan left in mid-December.
Between the two chambers of Congress, the House was generally seen as the trickier place for any ESEA rewrite to get through. But as it turned out, ESSA didn't even have to break a sweat in the lower chamber, passing by a vote of 359 to 64. Before the vote, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and the head of the House education committee, said the bill represented the end to a "top-down" approach to education.
This is the third non-ESSA post to make the top-10 cut. It discussed how the two separate House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills dealt with a variety of issues, such as testing (the House bill would have allowed parents to opt their children out of state exams without any penalties for schools), accountability, standards, and teacher quality.
Photo: President Barack Obama, flanked by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., left, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., signs the Every Student Succeeds Act, a major education law setting U.S. public schools on a new course of accountability, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington. The law will change the way teachers are evaluated and how the poorest performing schools are pushed to improve. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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