Washington, D.C. – President Obama signed the successor to 2007’s No Child Left Behind into law on December 10, shifting power from the federal government to state governments, getting rid of Common Core and adding new provisions for science, technology, engineering and math education.

The strongly bipartisan Every Child Succeeds Act (S.1177) will “inaugurate a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement by restoring responsibility to states and classroom teachers,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in a statement.

The act “includes strong federal guardrails to ensure all students have access to a quality education, reduces reliance on high-stakes testing, makes strong investments to improve and expand access to preschool for our youngest learners, and so much more,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement. Alexander and Murray, chair and ranking members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, co-sponsored the bill.

President Barack Obama greets eighth-grader Sofia Rios and the other stage participants prior to a bill signing ceremony for the Every Student Succeeds Act, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Dec. 10, 2015. Standing with Rios from left, Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Lily Eskelsen García, President, National Education Association; Todd Rokita, R-Ind.; Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore.; and House Education Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn. Credit: Pete Souza, Official White House Photo

The bill was introduced on April 30, passed the Senate on July 16, passed the House on November 17 with some amendments, underwent debate in the House and Senate, and ultimately made it to the President’s desk on December 9.

STEM in the new bill

The bill includes provisions to promote STEM education and training, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND).

“The bill includes support for STEM education, which we pushed for, and other initiatives to ensure that our students have the skills and education they need to be competitive today and into the future,” Hoeven said in a statement.

The initiatives allow states to fund and create STEM-focused specialty schools and STEM programs within schools to increase student access to STEM education.

“STEM Specialty School” is defined as “a school, or dedicated program within a school, that engages students in rigorous, relevant, and integrated learning experiences focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including computer science,” according to the bill.

“By boosting STEM opportunities across the country, today’s action will help give our students the skills they need to be successful in high-tech, high-wage jobs,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

Other STEM measures in the bill focus on education standards and tests, teacher training and recruitment and student enrichment opportunities.

The measures ensure states will continue to administer science and math tests and teach science to prepare students for college; promote professional development for teachers to train more deeply in their field; and allow states to offer higher wages, among other incentives, to recruit and retain teachers in STEM fields.

States can also establish a STEM Master Teacher Corps, which is a state-led effort to recognize, reward, attract and retain exceptional science teachers. Teachers in the corps can participate in professional development activities and can earn higher salaries.

The bill also requires states receiving over $30,000 in federal funds to spend at least 20 percent of it on “well-rounded” education activities, like hands-on learning and field-based experiences in STEM subjects both during and after school.

The STEM Education Coalition, which advocates for STEM learning, supports the bill. “We are encouraged that the Every Student Succeeds Act retains math and science testing, creates a STEM Master Teacher Corps, will provide much needed professional development training to STEM educators, and would allow greater access for thousands of school districts to federal funding to support STEM programs and activities, including partnerships with nonprofits,” the coalition said in a statement.

By Elizabeth Goldbaum, GSA Science Policy Fellow