History of Every Student Succeeds Act

The No Child Left Behind Act was due for reauthorization in 2007, but was not pursued for a lack of bipartisan cooperation. Many states failed to meet the NCLB's standards, and the Obama Administration granted waivers to many states for schools that showed success but failed under the NCLB standards. However, these waivers usually required schools to adopt academic standards such as the Common Core. The NCLB was generally praised for forcing schools and states to become more accountable for ensuring the education of poor and minority children. However, the increase in standardized testing that occurred during the presidencies of Bush and Obama met with resistance from many parents, and many called for a lessened role for the federal government in education. Similarly, the president of the NEA teachers union decried the NCLB's "one-size-fits-all model . . . of test, blame and punish."

Following his 2014 re-election, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who had served as Education Secretary under President George H.W. Bush, decided to pursue a major rewrite of No Child Left Behind. Alexander and Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the HELP committee, collaborated to write a bipartisan bill that could pass the Republican-controlled Congress and earn the signature of President Barack Obama. At the same time, John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, pushed his own bill in the House. In July 2015, each chamber of the United States Congress passed their own renewals of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. President Obama remained largely outside of the negotiations, though Alexander did win Obama's promise to not threaten to veto the bill during negotiations. As the House and Senate negotiated for the passage of a single bill in both houses, Bobby Scott (D-VA), the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, became a key player in ensuring Democratic votes in the House. By September 2015, the House and Senate had been able to resolve most of the major differences, but continued to differ on how to evaluate schools and how to respond to schools that perform poorly. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a proposal from Scott to allow the federal government to mandate specific circumstances in which states had to intervene in schools, while broadly giving states leeway in how to rate schools and in how to help struggling schools. Other major provisions included a pre-K program (at the urging of Murray), a provision to help ensure that states would not be able to exempt large swaths of students from testing (at the behest of civil rights groups), and restrictions on the power of the Education Secretary (at the urging of Alexander and Kline). The surprise resignation of Speaker John Boehner nearly derailed the bill, but incoming Speaker Paul Ryan's support of the bill helped ensure its passage. In December 2015, the House passed the bill in a 359-64 vote; days later, the Senate passed the bill in an 85-12 vote. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 10, 2015.