Friday, November 13, 2015

New 'No Child Left Behind' Almost There

From the Washington Post:

Congressional negotiators have struck a tentative deal to replace No Child Left Behind, the main K-12 federal education law, by shifting authority for K-12 schools to states and freeing them from many federal demands and restrictions in place for 13 years.

Congressional sources say they expect the deal to be presented to both chambers for a vote after Thanksgiving.
  • The agreement maintains the federal requirement that states test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and publicly report the scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether students are English-language learners.
Still not sure we need to test this often.  
  • And it requires states to intervene in schools where students are testing in the lowest five percent, where achievement gaps are greatest, and in high schools where fewer than 67 percent of students graduate on time.

    But states would determine what action to take, and they would also have the freedom to define progress and set timetables for their schools to reach the goals the state has set.
So this would be progress if the state really gave strict guidelines while admitting the realities of the challenges for different schools.

But here's the last bit of what states can do (but don't have to):
  • And for schools that are not the worst performers, states would decide how to judge their performance, how much weight to give to their standardized test scores, and whether to use test scores to evaluate teachers.
The deal would significantly reduce the authority of the U.S. Department of Education, prohibiting the secretary from influencing state academic standards and assessments, requiring teacher evaluations or using grant programs to influence state education policy.

“Under this, the secretary is allowed to get coffee,” quipped one lobbyist familiar with the agreement.

The deal includes a provision championed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to create competitive grants to help states coordinate various early-childhood programs. The program would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services; Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education panel and a former U.S. Secretary of Education, has been opposed to expanding the portfolio of the education agency.

Will this be, as blogger Dora Taylor calls it, Race to the Tots?

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