The One-Two Punch of NCLB and Common Core

The fight is on.  Some in Congress are trying to rewrite NCLB (as this work has been put off/ignored for years).  Some of this push is about the use of Common Core which several states are now dragging their feet on.  This rewrite by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) is called the Student Success Act and passed the House on Friday.  Rep. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has released his own bill called Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013

Via Diane Ravitch comes this great editorial from the LA Times on this issue.  From the editorial:

After Congress dragged its heels for six years on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, House Republicans suddenly passed a jumbled bill Friday that could best be described as the No Accountability Act, eliminating virtually all the school improvement mandates that were in the original law. President Obama has rightly vowed to veto it in the unlikely scenario that it reaches his desk, but even as he does so, he should not ignore the more valid sentiments behind the vote. The nation is ripe for rebellion against the rigid law and the Obama administration's further efforts to micromanage how schools are run.

To its credit, the law raised awareness about just how little students in impoverished areas were learning and resulted in modest improvements for those students; at the same time, it overemphasized standardized testing and fostered an unhelpful "everything is the teacher's fault" credo.

The federal government has the right to demand value for its education aid, but not to dictate the minutiae of school operations.

I have very mixed feelings on this bill because I am not feeling secure - in any way - that the money and effort are there to help teachers enact Common Core.   This reworking of ESEA Act (NCLB) would allow more local control (and bye-bye Common Core).   States and districts would still have to show this disaggregated data but there would be no goals or consequences for any results. 

However, it also, as the editorial says, would take away accountability from districts especially for ELL and Special Ed students.  Not good.

Diane says:

In the future, I believe, the period that began in 2001 and continues to this day will be remembered as the “Bush-Obama era” in education. It will be recalled as a time when a liberal Democratic president watched in silence as states attacked the teaching profession, lowered standards for entry into teaching, enacted laws to end collective bargaining, authorized privatization with federal funding and encouragement, and passed laws permitting vouchers for private and religious schools.

The Student Success Act:
  • Eliminates the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metric and replaces it with state-determined accountability systems, thereby returning authority for measuring student performance to states and school districts.
  • Eliminates federally mandated actions and interventions currently required of poor performing schools, giving states and districts maximum flexibility to develop appropriate school improvement strategies and rewards for their schools.
  • Repeals federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements and directs states and school districts to develop teacher evaluation systems that measure an educator’s influence on student learning.  These evaluations must be locally developed and implemented within broad parameters that factor in student achievement, incorporate multiple measures, and include feedback from all stakeholders.
  • Maintains the requirement that states and school districts issue and distribute annual report cards, including disaggregated data on student achievement and high school graduation rates, while also streamlining data reporting to ensure meaningful information is easily available to parents and communities.
  • Eliminates more than 70 existing elementary and secondary education programs to promote a more appropriate federal role in education.
  • Consolidates a myriad of existing K-12 education programs into a new Local Academic Flexible Grant, which provides funding to states and school districts to support local priorities that improve student achievement.
  • Supports opportunities for parents to enroll their children in local magnet schools and charter schools, and enhances statewide parental engagement.
  • Protects state and local autonomy over decisions in the classroom by limiting the authority of the secretary of education, including eliminating the secretary’s ability to inappropriately influence state decisions to adopt common standards or assessments.
Highlights of Harkin's bill (via Huffington Post):

Harkin's bill, known as the "Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013," contains a softer version of those annual goals, with a focus on "continuous improvement" and "college and career academic content." States can choose between three models of accountability to accomplish that improvement. It would also require states to implement teacher and principal evaluations that rely in part on student achievement, as defined by states. According to a bill summary, it aims to "ensur[e] ... disadvantaged students get the supports they need to succeed" and establishes a more balanced state-federal partnership to make sure that happens. 

The Harkin bill would allow any state to continue using accountability systems that have been approved by the secretary of education. (States would, however, have to adopt a provision that imposes consequences on schools with students in poverty that didn't improve.) "If not, a state will adopt an accountability system that is equally ambitious and holds all students to high expectations of student achievement," according to the summary. These systems must include criteria for student achievement and growth, high school graduation rates and English language proficiency. States would also each identify their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools with poor students as "priority schools," and "focus schools" would consist of the 10 percent of schools with poor students and the largest achievement gaps. 

Harkin's rewrite contains a new focus on children's years before kindergarten, requiring states to develop guidelines for student abilities prior to that point; to provide "greater access to high-quality literacy instruction" in early childhood education; and encourages full-day kindergarten programs. Under the law, states' lowest-performing schools would be required to expand their early childhood education programs.

The bill would also create an "equity score card" to inform parents of schools' climate, opportunities, assessments and funding.


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