By TAMAR LEWIN and MOTOKO RICH New York Times | http://nyti.ms/1GLCmwI
APRIL 7, 2015 A bipartisan Senate bill revising the No Child Left Behind law, and eliminating many of its most punitive elements, was announced on Tuesday.
The bill retains the requirement for yearly tests in math and reading for every student in third through eighth grade, and once in high school, and requires that the scores, broken down by race and income, be made public.
But it ends the framework under which almost all public schools were found to be failing, and could defuse what has become an all-out campaign by teachers, joined by many parents, to prevent having their job performances measured by students’ test scores.
The proposed legislation was negotiated by Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington. Earlier this year, a House bill was abruptly pulled, mid-debate, when it became clear that it would not muster enough Republican support to pass.
The Senate proposal requires that states adopt “challenging” academic standards in reading, math and science that would enable students to fulfill state vocational guidelines or to enter public universities in the state without having to take remedial classes. But the bill specifically deprives the secretary of education of the power to approve these standards.
Opposition to standardized testing has boiled over in recent years as the Obama administration used financial incentives and relief from the most onerous provisions of the No Child Left Behind law to require that states tether teachers’ job performance ratings to student test scores. The new Senate bill makes clear that states are not required to formally evaluate teachers or to use test scores if they do.
Also, under the proposal, the federal government would no longer prescribe how the states must handle schools with continuously poor scores.
“This is a big deal,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “It goes back to the original intent of the law, to level the playing field for at-risk kids.”
She added, “The decreased emphasis on testing and the stakes that go along with it will help create some oxygen, so the attention is on instruction and the joy of learning.”
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, however, expressed disappointment that the new bill retained annual testing requirements.
“Are you going to give that third grader some relief from test and punish?” she said. “Under this proposal, they still have to take just as many tests.”
The No Child Left Behind law, passed in 2001, was the signature education achievement of the George W. Bush administration and created an elaborate set of cascading punishments for schools that failed to make “adequate yearly progress” on test scores. It expired in 2007, but Congress has repeatedly failed to reauthorize the legislation, formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
At its heart, the battle over the reauthorization reflects disagreement about how large a role the federal government should play in public schools. Democrats often argue that the most vulnerable children need the protection of the federal government. Republicans make the case that education is traditionally a state function and that the federal government has overstepped its bounds in recent years.
At a time when new, widely adopted academic standards known as the Common Core have led to bruising political battles, the Senate proposal prohibits the Education Department from pushing states to adopt any specific curriculum guidelines.
Robert Schaeffer, the public education director at FairTest, a watchdog group concerned with standardized testing, said he hoped that when the bill came up for debate, the amendment process would lead to “grade span” testing, in which children would be assessed in reading, math and science once in elementary school, once in middle school and once in high school, reducing the number of required tests to nine from 17.
Throughout the long negotiations over reauthorizing the law, civil rights groups have been concerned that children from low-income families and racial minorities be given adequate resources and quality teaching.
As the House bill was being debated, the Obama administration focused on how the reauthorization would affect funding for schools with the highest concentration of needy students, which receive extra federal resources under the current law.
The House proposal would have allowed states to make that extra funding portable, so that students who moved to a more affluent school would take the money with them. The Senate proposal retains the current funding criteria.
The White House issued a statement calling the Senate proposal “an important step” but stopped short of endorsing it.
Below is Senator Alexander’s press release on the Senate ESEA bill – including links - by email from CSBA
Alexander, Murray Announce Bipartisan Agreement on Fixing “No Child Left Behind”
Schedule Committee Action for 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14
Tuesday, April 07, 2015Margaret Atkinson / Jim Jeffries (Alexander): 202-224-0387
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 7 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced a bipartisan agreement on fixing “No Child Left Behind.” They scheduled committee action on their agreement and any amendments to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 14.
Alexander said: “Senator Murray and I have worked together to produce bipartisan legislation to fix ‘No Child Left Behind.’ Basically, our agreement continues important measurements of the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement. This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests. It is the most effective way to advance higher standards and better teaching in our 100,000 public schools. We have found remarkable consensus about the urgent need to fix this broken law, and also on how to fix it. We look forward to a thorough discussion and debate in the Senate education committee next week.”
Murray said: “This bipartisan compromise is an important step toward fixing the broken No Child Left Behind law. While there is still work to be done, this agreement is a strong step in the right direction that helps students, educators, and schools, gives states and districts more flexibility while maintaining strong federal guardrails, and helps make sure all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. I was proud to be a voice for Washington state students and priorities as we negotiated this agreement, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to build on this bipartisan compromise and move legislation through the Senate, the House, and get it signed into law.”
The senators’ legislative agreement would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the chief law governing the federal role in K-12 education. The most recent reauthorization of ESEA was the “No Child Left Behind Act,” which was enacted in 2001 and expired in 2007. Since then, nearly all states have been forced to ask the U.S. Department of Education for waivers from some of the law’s most unworkable requirements.
The senators’ bill would fix the problems with “No Child Left Behind,” while keeping successful provisions, such as the reporting requirement of disaggregated data on student achievement. The bill would end states’ need for waivers from the law.
What the Every Child Achieves Act does:
§ Strengthens state and local control: The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. These accountability systems will be state-designed but must meet minimum federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government is prohibited from determining or approving state standards.
§ Maintains important information for parents, teachers, and communities: The bill maintains the federally required two tests in reading and math per child per year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. These important measures of student achievement ensure that parents know how their children are performing and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet state standards. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems within states. The bill also maintains annual reporting of disaggregated data of groups of children, which provides valuable information about whether all students are achieving, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.
§ Ends federal test-based accountability: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of No Child Left Behind, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems. States will also be required to include graduation rates, a measure of postsecondary and workforce readiness, English proficiency for English learners. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.
§ Maintains important protections for federal taxpayer dollars: The bill maintains important fiscal protections of federal dollars, including maintenance of effort requirements, which help ensure that federal dollars supplement state and local education dollars, with additional flexibility for school districts in meeting those requirements.
§ Helps states fix the lowest-performing schools: The bill includes federal grants to states and school districts to help improve low performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems. School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low performing schools, with technical assistance from the states, and the federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve those schools.
§ Helps states support teachers: The bill provides resources to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, principals, and other educators, including allowable uses of funds for high quality induction programs for new teachers, ongoing rigorous professional development opportunities for teachers, and programs to recruit new educators to the profession. The bill allows, but does not require, states to develop and implement teacher evaluation systems.
§ Reaffirms the states’ role in determining education standards: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.
For more details on the bill:
Click here for the legislation. (601 pages)
Click here for a summary of the bill.