CORRECTION: An earlier version of this 4LAKidsNews post called the new legislation The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) when it is unreally the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). But anybody who remembers Schoolhouse Rock knows it’s not a Act yet anyhow . . . it’s only a Bill!
House passes No Child Left Behind rewrite
By Maggie Severns | Politico| http://politi.co/1SAID2D
ESEA Reauthorization: The Every Student Succeeds Act (and the Jack Johnson connection) Explained
By Alyson Klein | EdWeek/Politics K-12 | http://bit.ly/1XLkCaj
12/02/15 07:27 PM EST | Updated 12/02/15 08:13 PM EST :: After eight years of failed efforts, the House of Representatives voted 359-64 to replace the widely loathed No Child Left Behind Act, setting up a Senate vote as soon as next week, and a new law likely by year’s end.
The compromise to rewrite the central law governing American education attempts to strike a balance between Democrats’ desire to protect poor and minority students from neglect in failing schools, and Republicans’ goal of returning more control over public education to states and local school districts.
It’s one of several bipartisan agreements, including a budget deal and a highway bill, that have been struck on Capitol Hill in recent weeks as lawmakers race to tick off legislative priorities before the holidays.
“It’s almost like Pope Francis created some aura that you have capitalized on,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) said Wednesday to Reps. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chief House negotiators on the deal.
The bill, S.1177, would dispense with No Child Left Behind’s requirement that schools move towards having all students reading on grade level or face consequences, but still oblige states to establish ways to identify failing schools and improve them. It would keep standardized testing requirements, but encourage states to pare the number of tests students must take. Test results would be reported for groups that often lag behind, such as minority or disabled students.
And the bill would prevent the education secretary from pushing national standards like the Common Core — a set of reading and math standards spread in part through Obama administration incentives.
A year ago, the notion that the two parties would rally around such an agreement was almost unimaginable, given the history of failed attempts and the wide gulf between the parties on education.
This year’s attempt took months of negotiating and almost came undone multiple times. Most notably, Republican leaders had to pull an earlier version of the bill from the House floor amid concerns from the right that it wouldn’t do enough to restore local control in education.
This week, the bill’s Republican supporters finally caught a break.
A Wall Street Journal editorial deemed the No Child Left Behind rewrite the “largest devolution of federal control” in 25 years, giving Kline and others ammunition to sell the bill to their colleagues. They also had support from the National Governors Association, which is dominated by Republicans and gave the bill its first official endorsement of legislation in close to 20 years. And lawmakers had other priorities crucial to the GOP, like the forthcoming spending bill, to worry about.
“It’s a binary choice: You can vote for this new direction and give our children a better opportunity, or you can vote to keep No Child Left Behind,” Kline said.
In the end, 178 of the 246 House Republicans backed the bill, though Heritage Action and others on the right opposed it.
The agreement appears headed for smooth sailing through the Senate. President Barack Obama is all but certain to sign it into law, but he did not take an official stance on it, likely to avoid alienating potential Republican supporters, according to sources familiar with the administration’s thinking. As soon as the House voted Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement the vote was "good news for our nation’s schools."
“We are encouraged that the bill passed by the House today would codify the vision that we have long advocated for giving a fair shot at a great education to every child in America – regardless of ZIP code," Duncan said, listing administration priorities such as a new early childhood program that made it into the bill.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest also praised the bill and said the White House looks forward to Senate passage.
Democratic lawmakers have meanwhile rallied behind the agreement and the lawmakers who negotiated it, Scott and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The bill has support from teachers unions and many education groups, who overwhelmingly believe that No Child Left Behind needs replacing, even though many would prefer to maintain a stronger federal role. Unions pushed hard for a bill that placed less emphasis on test scores — which have been used in recent years to rate and, in some cases, fire teachers. The bill would allow states to focus much less on test scores than under current law.
Many civil rights groups debated whether to line up behind the final deal. Advocates for underprivileged children fear that more state power will translate into a slackening of efforts to improve the performance of poor and minority students; they point out that, prior to No Child Left Behind’s enactment, many states did less for vulnerable kids than they do now.
Ultimately, most influential groups came out in support of the agreement this week. They acknowledge that they have concerns about the final bill, but see little hope for getting a better deal in the near future and hope it will be an improvement over the status quo.
Scott said Wednesday he shared their trepidation about loosening the federal government’s reins but believes the bill will ultimately be an improvement for students.
“The federal government, left to its own devices, wasn’t doing so hot either,” Scott said.
Votes in both chambers of Congress are expected over the next couple weeks. If all goes as planned, the bill will reach President Barack Obama's desk by the end of the year—and he's expected to sign it.
So what is in the ESSA, when it comes to accountability, testing, programs, and more? And how does it compare to No Child Left Behind Act, Classic Edition, and the Obama administration's NCLB waivers?
Your updated cheat sheet here. Top-line stuff first. Scroll down further if you want the nitty-gritty details on accountability, including a few new tweaks from the framework we posted last week.
And scroll down even further if you want more details on other aspects of the deal (an update of past Politics K-12 cheat sheets, including information on how the transition from waivers and current law will work, English-language learners, which programs made the cut, teacher provisions, and much more.) And find reaction to the bill here.
The top-line stuff: The ESSA is in many ways a U-turn from the current, much-maligned version of the ESEA law, the No Child Left Behind Act.
States would still have to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and break out the data for whole schools, plus different "subgroups" of students (English-learners, students in special education, racial minorities, those in poverty).
But beyond that, states get wide discretion in setting goals, figuring out just what to hold schools and districts accountable for, and deciding how to intervene in low-performing schools. And while tests still have to be a part of state accountability systems, states must incorporate other factors that get at students' opportunity to learn, like school-climate and teacher engagement, or access to and success in advanced coursework.
States and districts will have to use locally-developed, evidence-based interventions, though, in the bottom 5 percent of schools and in schools where less than two-thirds of students graduate. States must also flag for districts schools where subgroup students are chronically struggling.
The federal School Improvement Grant program is gone, but there are resources in the bill states can use for school turnarounds.
And, in a big switch from the NCLB waivers, there would be no role for the feds whatsoever in teacher evaluation.
Another big switch from waivers: In a win for civil rights groups, the performance of each subgroup of students would have to be measured separately, meaning states could no longer rely solely on so-called supersubgroups. That's a statistical technique in the waivers that allowed states to combine different categories of students for accountability purposes.
The bill would combine some 50 programs, some of which haven't been funded in years, into a big giant block grant.
When it comes to accountability, there are definitely some "guardrails," as one of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would say. (More on just what those are below.) But the U.S. Secretary of Education authority is also very limited, especially when it comes to interfering with state decisionmaking on testing, standards, school turnarounds, and more.
It's still unclear just how the accountability or "guardrails" provisions of the bill vs. limits on secretarial authority dynamic will play out in regulation. There are definitely provisions in this bill that state and district leaders and civil rights advocates can cite to show that states and schools will have to continue to ensure equity. But, it could prove tough for the U.S. Department of Education to implement those provisions with a very heavy hand, without at least the threat of lawsuits, some analysts say.
"What can the secretary do and not do? I think that's where the lawsuits will be," said Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama.
The nitty-gritty details on accountability:
Plans: States would still have to submit accountability plans to the Education Department. These new ESSA plans would start in the 2017-18 school year. The names of peer-reviewers would have to be made public. And a state could get a hearing if the department turned down its plan.
What kinds of schools will states have to focus on?
What do these accountability systems have to consider? The list of "indicators" is a little different for elementary and middle schools vs. high schools.
How much do each of these indicators have to count? That will be largely up to states, but the academic factors (tests, graduation rates, etc.) have to count "much" more as a group than the indicators that get at students' opportunity to learn and post-secondary readiness. (This is one of just a handful of important clarifications from the framework. If you're a true-blue wonk, you can read more on how it developed here.)
How do interventions work?
What kind of resources are there for these interventions? The School Improvement Grant program, which is funded at around $500 million currently, has been consolidated into the bigger Title I pot, which helps districts educate students in poverty. But states would be able to set aside up to 7 percent of all their Title I funds for school turnarounds, up from 4 percent in current law. (That would give states virtually the same amount of resources for school improvement as they get now, through SIG.) Most of the money would have to districts. It would be up to states whether to send that money out by formula, to everyone, or competitively, as they do now with SIG dollars. (More in this cheat sheet from AASA, the School Administrator's Association, which has been updated on this issue.) Bottom line: There are resources in the bill for school turnarounds.
What about the tests? The testing schedule would be the same as under NCLB. But in a twist, up to seven states could apply to try out local tests, with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education. And importantly, these local tests aren't supposed to be used forever—the point is for districts to experiment with new forms of assessment (as New Hampshire is doing with performance tasks) that could eventually go statewide and be used by everyone. That way states don't get stuck with the same old assessment for years on end.
What's more, the framework allows for the use of local, nationally-recognized tests at the high school level, with state permission. So a district could, in theory, use the SAT or ACT as its high school test, instead of the traditional state exam.
Also, computer adaptive testing would be easier. More here.
What about standards? States must adopt "challenging" academic standards, just like under NCLB Classic. That could be the Common Core State Standards, but it doesn't have to be. And, as we noted above, the U.S. Secretary of Education is expressly prohibited from forcing or even encouraging states to pick a particular set of standards (including Common Core).
What about that supersubgroup thing mentioned higher up? Supersubgroups are a statistical technique used in the waivers that call for states to combine different groups of students (say, students in special education, English-language learners, and minorities) for accountability purposes. By my reading of the bill, it would seem that's a no-no. States now have to consider accountability for each subgroup separately. States liked the flexibility of supersubgroups. But former Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and civil rights groups said they masked gaps. The deal appears to eliminate the use of supersubgroups.
How do we transition from NCLB and the waivers to this new system?
What about the rest of the bill?
Scroll down for information on English-language learners, students in special education, school choice, teachers, and funding provisions.
Where does the deal land when it comes to when newly arrived English-language learners must be tested? (Background on this issue here). States would have two choices.
The compromise would shift accountability for English-language learners from Title III (the English-language acquistion section of the ESEA) to Title I (where everyone else's accountability is). The idea is to make accountability for those students a priority.
Students in Special Education
The legislation says essentially, that only 1 percent of students overall can be given alternative tests. (That's about 10 percent of students in special education.)
The bill largely sticks with the Senate language, which would allow states to create their own testing opt-out laws (as Oregon has). But it would maintain the federal requirement for 95 percent participation in tests. However, unlike under the NCLB law, in which schools with lower-than-95 percent participation rates were automatically seen as failures, local districts and states would get to decide what should happen in schools that miss targets. States would have to take low testing participation into consideration in their accountability systems. Just how to do that would be up to them.
There's more consolidation of federal education in the compromise than there was in the Senate bill. For a look at how much money each program is slated to receive, check out this great (and updated!) cheat sheet from the Committee for Education Funding.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. got the early-childhood investment she wanted—the bill enshrines an existing program "Preschool Development Grants" in law, and focuses it on program coordination, quality, and broadening access to early-childhood education. But the program would be housed at the Department of Health and Human Services, not the Education Department as some Democrats had initially hoped. The Education Department would jointly administer the program, however. (The reason: HHS already has some early-education programs, like Head Start. Expanding the Education Department's portfolio was a big no-no for conservatives.)
That new research and innovation program that some folks were describing as sort of a next-generation "Investing in Innovation" program made it into the bill. (Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are big fans, as is the administration.)
On School Choice
No Title I portability: That means that federal funds won't be able to follow the child to the school of their choice.
But the bill does include a pilot project allowing districts to try out a weighted student funding formula, which would also essentially function as a backpack of funds for kids. The program would allow 50 districts to combine state, local, and federal funds for easy transferrability. It is said to be a more workable alternative to Title I portability, which looked more dramatic on paper, but which few states would likely have taken advantage of because of its complexity, experts said. Importantly with this pilot, participation would be entirely up to district officials. And the language would give them a chance to better target funds to individual school needs.
The headline here is that states would no longer have to do teacher evaluation through student outcomes, as they did under waivers. And NCLB's "highly qualified teacher" requirement would be officially a thing of the past.
There's also language allowing for continued spending on the Teacher Incentive Fund—now called the Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program—which provides grants to districts that want to try out performance pay and other teacher-quality improvement measures. And there are resources for helping train teachers on literacy and STEM. Much more from Teacher Beat.
Funding and Other Issues
No changes to the Title I funding formula along the lines of what the Senate passed that would steer a greater share of the funds to districts with high concentrations of students in poverty. But there were some changes to the Title II formula (which funds teacher quality) that would be a boon to rural states.
The agreement would keep in place maintenance of effort, a wonky issue we wrote about recently, with some new flexibility added for states. (Quick tutorial: Maintenance of effort basically requires states to keep up their own spending at a particular level in order to tap federal funds.)
There was some chatter that the bill would also incorporate changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. That's not part of the agreement.
The framework would only "authorize" ESEA for four more years, as opposed to the typical five. That gives lawmakers a chance to revisit the policy under the next president, should they choose to do so. And its overall authorization levels are largely consistent with the most recent budget deal.
…because Black boxers matter?
And here's one other issue you probably didn't see coming: The bill includes a posthumous "sense of the Senate" pardon for Jack Johnson, the legendary black heavyweight boxer. In 1913, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which deals with prostitution and other crimes related to sexual activities. Johnson's conviction has come to be widely seen as a racially motivated move by federal authorities. (The ESEA bill's section on Johnson begins on page 914 and ends on page 918.)
Several lawmakers have pushed for Johnson to be pardoned in recent years, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Arizona Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Politics K-12 co-blogger and Assistant Editor Andrew Ujifusa contributed to this report.