Monday, July 22, 2013

Reauthorization takes another turn . . .

In case you didn't see it, reauthorization of ESEA took another confusing turn when the House Republicans passed a partisan bill to replace No Child Left Behind as contained in this Education Week article.

The bill, approved 221-207, with no Democratic support, would maintain the NCLB law's signature testing schedule and its practice of breaking out student-achievement data by particular groups of students (such as English-language learners and students in special education).

The bill, however, gives states greater latitude in determining how they hold schools and school districts accountable for student growth.  To get support for the bill, Republican leadership also had to make optional one of the key provisions in the recently granted waivers and one supported by education reformers, the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

The measure won support from some of the most conservative members of the House GOP caucus only after Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the bill's author, gave up the ghost on a policy near and dear to his heart: Requiring school districts to use student outcomes to measure teacher effectiveness. Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and Steve Scalise, R-La., persuaded Kline to make such evaluations optional, not mandatory. And those conservative lawmakers were in lock-step with the National Education Association on this issue.

The Senate Democrats are ready to bring to the floor a bill that is much different than the House version while the Senate Republican have already offered a bill very close to that passed by the House.

And in fact, Alexander released a statement calling the bill a "kissing cousin" of his own legislation, which has the support of all ten GOP lawmakers on the Senate education committee. Alexander encouraged his colleagues to pass legislation similar to the House bill, which he said would halt the administration's efforts to create "a national school board."

"Senate Republicans are thrilled," a Senate GOP aide said. "The House bill is about as good a piece of legislation as there is and we should go to conference and concede to the House...[The vote] shows that when you offer freedom, freedom wins."

If that wasn't enough to muddy the waters, the Obama administration has threatened to veto the House bill.  So, NCLB was passed in a bipartisan manner with handshakes and congratulations across the aisle in both houses and with Presidential support.  Its successor has seen a 180 degree turn with partisan votes, threatened vetoes, and no common vision for what we need to support success for all young people.  Care to share your thoughts about this situation and where you are at with the use of student achievement data and school accountability?

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