Folks like the Center for American Progress are grateful that the feds still play some role, however small, in maintaining the data that proves that at-risk students are or are not doing okay. If we're honest, we know that returning all power to the states ensures that Every Average White Student Succeeds. ESSA doesn't return all power to the states, but it returns a lot. States may now choose their own highly rigorous standards (mostly, so far, that means Common Core Lite), meaning that we will return to an apples v. oranges situation as kids move across borders or apply from different states to the same college. Seven (why seven?) states may revamp their assessments immediately. Punitive sanctions and Annual Yearly Progress goals are gone, which is enough to let the NEA sign on. Despite the NEA president's suggestion that testing is enormously reduced, 3-8 and HS reading and math testing remain, with science tested three times across the student's career (elementary, middle, high school). Results must still be reported for various subgroups, which cheers civil libertarians. But the states get to decide how to intervene in low-performing schools. That never worked before; who knows why people assume it will work now. But perhaps there are built-in incentives to hold their feet to the fire.
I do like this quote from blogger Jeff Bryant: "First, it’s a sign of dysfunction, rather than a triumph of bipartisanship, to see officials in Washington, DC celebrating legislation that significantly curtails the influence of officials in Washington, DC." NCLB was an overreach, for sure. In attempting to shove every student, teacher, and school in the US through the same round hole, it perpetrated unfairness and suffering on children whose only fault was to be in the wrong classroom at the wrong time, or to exhibit a learning disability, or to be new to English. I accept that we can't trust officials in Washington, DC, to educate our kids. Can we trust officials in Albany? Topeka? Jackson? Stay tuned.