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The Daily Dish: Senate Talks Accountability, Testing on Day One of Debates to Rewrite NCLB

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July 08, 2015 02:06 pm

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The Daily Dish digs deeper into one of the day’s top news stories on K–12 education. Make sure to add High School Soup to your RSS feed for all the latest updates and follow the Alliance on Twitter at @All4Ed for more education news.


Accountability measures were on the minds of many during the first day of the U.S. Senate debate of the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), a bill to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). During the proceedings, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called for greater accountability for the performance of underserved students and low-performing schools, particularly high schools.

“We owe it to every child in America to ensure that every door is open for them to demand better,” Booker said, addressing the Senate. “We need to demand better for our kids. We need to keep them front and center as we consider this bill on the floor.”

Lauren Camera of Politics K-12 recapped the day and Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) focus on the bill’s proposals to “roll back the influence of the federal government and provide additional flexibility to states and local school districts, especially when it comes to creating their own accountability systems.”

Camera also noted that, “A very decisive policy rift continued to grow—whether or not to beef up accountability provisions in the bill.” The Associated Press’ Jennifer C. Kerr made note of Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) stance on including more accountability measures in the bill that would “require states to identify their lowest-performing schools and require those schools to have plans for improvement.” Kerr also points out that the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Education need to see accountability provisions added to the legislation if they are to support it.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) issued a statement to senators as the proceedings continued, stating its support for the bipartisan approach to rewrite NCLB, but – like many others – called for more accountability measures. Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO, outlined specific changes the state chiefs’ group is seeking as the Senate considers ECAA, including more state-determined measures that ensure state accountability systems address achievement gaps for subgroups of students.

“These changes will further improve the Every Child Achieves Act to maintain an appropriate balance between the state and federal role in education while making sure states continue to focus on graduation rates, lowest-performing schools and closing achievement gaps,” Minnich said in the statement.

The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to begin markup on The Student Success Act this afternoon, its own bill to reauthorize NCLB. The House originally brought the bill up for discussion in February, but pulled it from the floor because there were not enough votes to pass the legislation. The Senate will continue to vote on amendments to the legislation throughout this week and probably into next week.

In a blog for The Huffington Post, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, predicted “fireworks” in both houses of Congress as bills are taken up both floors. He notes that “this could be the most momentous week in federal education policy in the thirteen years since NCLB became law.” He notes that the Senate will likely to see close votes over contentious amendments while the House is likely to pass its bill without Democratic votes.

“I don’t see the next week as being that difficult for Republican leadership,” Wise writes. “The real test for [House Speaker John] Boehner’s team is what comes out of a [House-Senate] conference and whether the House Republicans will accept some of the Senate provisions, or whether enough provisions will be left in the Senate bill to get a favorable vote from Senators.”

For updates on both the Senate and House debates to reauthorize NCLB, check out the Alliance’s special edition Federal Flash this week. Click the link for the latest episode: https://youtu.be/9nDMhigG7QY

Federal Flash is the Alliance’s weekly five-minute video on the latest developments in federal education policy. If you’re not already on the list, email alliance@all4ed.org to receive an email alert when the new Federal Flash is posted.

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