Friday, October 14, 2011

NCLB Reauthorization: Who gets control?

The U.S. Congress is showing mixed results in addressing the reauthorization of NCLB legislation in spite of broad consensus that it requires urgent attention. According to the NY Times, the U.S. House education committee leadership wishes to proceed in a "piecemeal" fashion; however, few pieces have been forthcoming. The New York Times sees the House actions this way:
"The House leadership has appeared unwilling to move toward a full rewriting of the law, which could give Mr. Obama a domestic policy triumph going into an election year."

The U.S. Senate has filed a comprehensive bill. According to Senate education committee chair Senator Tom Harkin, this bill was developed in bipartisan fashion and returns some of the powers to the states that were taken away via NCLB legislation. Accountability remains in place.

"Mr. Harkin’s bill would keep the law’s requirements that states test students in reading and math every year in grades three through eight, and once in high school, and make the scores public.

But for about 9 of every 10 American schools, it would scrap the law’s federal system of accountability, under which schools must raise the proportion of students showing proficiency on the tests each year. That system has driven classroom teaching across the nation for a decade.

States would still face federal oversight for the worst-performing 5 percent of schools, as well as for the 5 percent of schools in each state with the widest achievement gap between minority and white students. Districts in charge of those schools could lose federal financing under the Harkin plan if they failed to raise their student achievement."

There are critics who maintain that local control is the problem.

“Harkin’s bill would return control to the state departments of education and the local school districts, and they’re the ones that got us into the mess that No Child was designed to fix,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who headed the Department of Education’s research wing under President Bush. “Districts and states have not been effective in delivering quality education to children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, so why should we think they’ll be effective this time around?”

Other groups advocating for minority and special education students fear that the relaxing of sub-group accountability turns back the clock for these students.

Ed Week provided more perspective on the Senate ESEA draft bill. Adequate yearly progress requirements will disappear and replaced by state identified continuous improvement and ability to use either a yearly test or interim measures that show progress. The comprehensive Senate bill proposes to:

  • Codify the Race to Top, Investing in Innovation, and Promise Neighborhood programs, all top Obama administration reform initiatives.

  • Require states to set college- and career-readiness standards, either with other states or alone.

  • Largely keep the law's testing system in place, but eliminate the 2013-14 deadline for bringing all students to proficiency in math and reading.

  • Require states to develop new teacher evaluation systems.

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