What is most fascinating to me is that the law changes a lot while at the same time changing very little. The main shift that everyone is focusing on is that the federal government no longer mandates teacher evaluation to be tied to standardized test scores. Instead, the states and local governments are left to battle that fight on their own. In New York State Governor Cuomo simultaneously announced a moratorium on test-based teacher evaluations for four years. This seems at odds with his previous positions on incorporating testing so highly into teacher evaluation.
There are some strange things included in this bill, however, that are just coming to light (as people can finally sit down to read it).
1) States are free to choose their own test-based accountability policies but they must be approved by the secretary of education in order to receive Title 1 funding (Source).
2) The ESSA contains a ban on abortion-funding for school-based clinics. While this is a very low number of clinics, it is interesting that it is included (Source).
3) Possibly the biggest issue is surrounding teacher preparation programs and what constitutes a "high-quality teacher," what credits they should be earning, etc (Source).
While it is a step in the right direction, in my opinion, to reduce the role of the federal government from mandating testing, it is not true that testing will be gone. States are still mandated to test students in grade 3-8 and once in high school for a variety of subjects. We'll see how this plays out.