Elementary and Secondary Education reauthorization

Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced two draft bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bills would dismantle the current school accountability system and mandate teacher evaluations based in part on student outcomes. His bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, also would:

  • significantly reduce federal intervention in low-performing schools,
  • eliminate the federal School Improvement Grants to help poor schools improve, and
  • leave intervention strategies up to the states.

Chairman Kline appears to be taking a more comprehensive look at ESEA rather than the piecemeal process the House had been taking.

On the Senate side, the HELP committee approved a bi-partisan 800+-page overhaul of the ESEA. The Senate bill would also scrap the current accountability system but does not mandate teacher evaluations (a compromise necessary to move the bill). It does keep in place some federal intervention in the worst performing schools.

Both the Senate and House bills would eliminate adequate yearly progress (AYP), which is the current accountability system that requires all students to be on grade level in reading and math by 2014. The Senate bill would require schools to adopt standards that prepare students to be college or career ready; the House bill supports the goal of preparing students for college and careers but would bar the Secretary of Education from encouraging states to develop more uniform, rigorous standards. Differences include:

  • requiring teachers to be highly qualified – the Senate would retain that requirement while the House would abolish it;
  • the Senate bill would require interventions in the bottom 5% of schools while the House bill does not specify a percentage nor would it require specific interventions;
  • the House bill would provide schools with funding flexibility and eliminate the maintenance of effort requirement, which requires states and school districts to keep up their funding at certain levels in order to get federal funding.

The current ESEA/NCLB holds schools accountable for the performance of students with disabilities. The Arc will monitor both the Senate and House bills to ensure that the protections for students with disabilities are not lost.

It is doubtful that ESEA will be reauthorized in 2012 and until that happens, the Dept of Education will continue offering states a process for obtaining waivers from the accountability measures. 39 states have expressed interest in applying for a waiver. (Information about ESEA waivers is on www.ed.gov/esea/flexibility)

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