House to Shrink Federal Role in Education
Friday, 13 January 2012 20:24
The House Education Committee's final two bills to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would dramatically reduce the federal footprint in holding schools accountable for performance and transform the nation's approach to improving teacher effectiveness.
The bills' key provisions would
- Maintain current requirements to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. The bill would also maintain the requirement to disaggregate those test data by student subgroup, however, students would no longer be required to take state science tests, which is a departure from both current law and the Senate's ESEA rewrite.
- Scrap adequately yearly progress, similar to the Senate bill and the Obama administration's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver plan. In its place, the House bill gives states the authority to develop their own accountability systems as long as they include annual measures of student achievement, annual evaluations of schools based on student achievement and closing achievement gaps, and school improvement interventions—overseen by school districts—for the lowest-performing schools. The House bill would also eliminate the School Improvement Grant program.
- Eliminate all maintenance of effort requirements for states and districts, which require states and school districts to maintain their own education funding at a certain level to access federal funds.
- Eliminate the highly qualified teacher requirements, and instead require states and districts to develop local teacher evaluation systems that use multiple measures of evaluation; incorporate student achievement data; include more than two rating categories; are tied to personnel decisions; and are developed with input from parents, teachers, and other staff. In contrast, the Senate bill maintains the highly qualified teacher requirements and only requires teacher evaluations for districts participating in competitive grant programs.
- Limit the U.S. secretary of education's authority. As a clear response to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's support for the Common Core State Standards and his NCLB waivers, the bills assert that the secretary has no authority to address state standards, assessments, or accountability, and may not coerce states into entering into partnerships with other states.
These two bills—discussion drafts that are subject to change—incorporate the House's earlier ESEA reauthorization efforts that focused on eliminating duplicative and ineffective ESEA education programs, promoting more rigorous charter schools, and increasing funding flexibility for states and districts. Of those efforts, only the charter school measure received bipartisan support.
The way forward remains uncertain. The latest bills were a Republican-only affair, prompting top committee Democrat George Miller (CA) to claim an "end to NCLB reform this Congress" and sharply criticize the bills for failing to hold schools accountable for improving student achievement and shirking the civil rights responsibilities of the federal government.
House Education Chairman John Kline (R-MN), on the other hand, hopes the draft legislation will fuel ongoing debate about how to best improve the federal education law, and believes the bills 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."
However, it will be extremely difficult for Kline to garner bipartisan support without Miller's backing. Meanwhile, Senate Education Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has said that he won't advance his committees' bipartisan ESEA rewrite to the full Senate floor unless the House reaches a bipartisan agreement of its own.