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The Daily Dish: Senate Talks Roll into Next Week As Debate on NCLB Rewrite Continues

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July 10, 2015 02:46 pm


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.

This week, Congress made some progress towards reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Issues of accountability, testing, and scaling back the federal government’s involvement in public education were among the bigger topics of contention as lawmakers worked to rewrite the expired law.

In an appearance on PBS Newshour with Hari Sreenivasan Thursday, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise said fixing the state of ESEA comes down to moving away from the prescriptive nature NCLB without compromising the gains made in its wake – especially when it comes to meaningful accountability.

“…you need the ability to report on students that are having low outcomes, measure them over a period of time, and then for the federal government to say to states, ‘look, you have got to do something,’” said Wise.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Student Success Act, its proposal to rewrite NCLB. The bill passed with no support from Democrats. Next week, the Senate will resume debating the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), having adopted and rejected several amendments during three days of proceedings. While U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the House passed-bill “a huge step backwards for American students” because it shifts resources from struggling schools and the students they serve, the inclusion of Sen. Ron Wyden’s, (D-OR) provision to make more high schools eligible for federal turnaround grants served as a bright spot Thursday for traditionally underserved students in the potential NCLB rewrite.

Wyden said in a statement on his website, “The federal government must do more to help high school students get their diplomas and boost graduation rates. That means identifying at-risk students, and encouraging educators to provide them with the support they need to finish high school.”

Though the Senate approved 14 amendments on Thursday, one controversial amendment rejected was the A PLUS Act offered by Sen. Steve Daines, (R-Mont). As Politics K-12’s Lauren Camera explains, the amendment “would have allowed states to opt out of federal accountability entirely and send funding under the current law back to states in the form of block grants.”

In  an opinion piece for The Hechinger Report, senior fellow at the Alliance Robert Rothman says that while the debate over who should decide how to hold schools accountable for student performance has taken center stage, other potential changes to NCLB could also have a great impact on public schools. Specifically, Rothman points to a provision in the Senate bill to create a pilot program that would allow up to seven state to develop and implement assessment systems.

“If it becomes law, this provision could open the door to dramatic new ways of measuring student learning,” writes Rothman. “And because of the strong effect of assessment on instruction, this provision could have a substantial impact on teaching and learning.” But Rothman notes that like the changes to accountability, the proposed change has a long way to go – in both the Senate and later full Congressional discussions – before it affects schools.

For a recap of this week’s activity in the House and Senate to rewrite No Child Left Behind, check out the Alliance’s Federal Flash:


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