On January 6, U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released two draft pieces of legislation on accountability and teacher effectiveness as part of the committee’s work to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The two bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, follow three other bills the committee has passed in its piecemeal approach to rewriting NCLB.
“The upcoming ten-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind provides an opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing our nation’s classrooms,” Kline said. “There is a strong sense of urgency that the heavy-handed law must be reformed to ensure more children have access to the quality education they deserve. Today, I’m pleased to release draft legislation that will change the status quo and put more control into the hands of the teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents who know the needs of children best.”
The Student Success Act would eliminate NCLB’s adequate yearly progress (AYP) provision and “[return] responsibility for student achievement to states, school districts, and parents, while maintaining high expectations,” according to a summary of the bill provided by the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The bill would remove federal requirements for basic, proficient, and advanced levels of achievement and require states to “establish academic standards that apply to all students and schools in the state in at least reading and math.” The bill would largely maintain NCLB’s current testing schedule, as well as the law’s requirement that states disaggregate student subgroup data. However, it eliminates the current requirement for testing in science, and it would also eliminate the School Improvement Grant program and divert those funds to the Title I program.
The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act would require school districts to develop a teacher evaluation system after seeking input from parents, teachers, school leaders, and other staff in the school. The bill would require that student achievement data be a “significant” part of the evaluation and that evaluations be used to make personnel decisions.
The three previous bills the committee passed as part of its work rewriting NCLB include the Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act, which would eliminate more than forty education programs, including the High School Graduation Initiative and Striving Readers; the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, which would update and reauthorize the federal program supporting charter schools; and the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, which, opponents believe, would lead to fewer resources supporting low-income students.
Although Democrats offered input on the three previous bills, the recently drafted bills on accountability and teacher effectiveness were a Republican-only endeavor. In a statement on the NCLB anniversary, Representative George Miller (D-CA), top Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, accused Kline of “abandoning efforts to reach a consensus” on NCLB reform. “Instead of pushing a partisan bill down a predictable path of failure, it’s time that Congress come together to get things done on behalf of the American people,” Miller said.
Upon releasing the two pieces of legislation, Kline noted that they were “not final legislation” but “a step forward in the ongoing debate on the best way to improve education in America.” He called education reform “an issue that will shape future generations,” adding, “we cannot afford to let the conversation stall.”
In a statement, Alliance President Bob Wise said bipartisan gains for the nation’s high schools made under the Bush and Obama administrations, such as accountability for graduation rates and a greater focus on the nation’s lowest-performing high schools, would be threatened or lost under the House committee’s proposal. “Without these key components for the nation’s high schools, the push to drive education reform into the twenty-first century could run out of gas,” Wise said.
The House piecemeal approach differs from the comprehensive approach in the Senate, where the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed a single bipartisan bill to overhaul NCLB. During a November 10 speech on the Senate floor, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) implied that the Senate would not move further on the committee-passed bill until the House of Representatives passed its version of the bill.
“Without a bipartisan bill coming out of the House, I believe it would be difficult to find a path forward that will draw the support we need from both sides of the aisle to be able to send a final bill to the president that advances education for America’s students,” Harkin said . “Here in the Senate, we have demonstrated that it is possible to reach bipartisan consensus despite the thorny issues in education. We all need to work together in a bipartisan way to replace the No Child Left Behind Act with a new and better law.”