News

Tough slog ahead in Congress for NCLB rewrite

By Kyung M. Song, The Seattle Times
February 20th, 2015

Debate about testing looms over the promise of a NCLB compromise

nclb-congressU.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander earlier this month announced a symbolic breakthrough in the decadelong ideological wrangling over how to rewrite the nation’s chief education law.

Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate committee working to renew the law known as No Child Left Behind, agreed to scrap his own proposed bill in favor of a new version he would craft with Murray, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Yet the promise of a bipartisan first draftand quickening momentum that Congress may pass a reauthorization that is seven years overduehas only heightened the political fissures.

Leaders of three national civil rights organizations on Feb. 10 said they will oppose any reauthorization that they say would shortchange students who are nonwhite, poor, English learners or otherwise disadvantaged.

The next day, a House committee passed a No Child bill modeled on a version the Republican-controlled House passed in 2013 without a single Democratic vote. The White House opposes the House bill, in part because it could divert federal Title 1 money earmarked for poor students to wealthier districts.

Meanwhile, opponents of annual standardized testing, led by teachers unions and some parents, are lobbying to roll back what they call “overuse and misuse” of test scores as a proxy for education quality. Instead, the National Education Association, for one, is asking the federal government to adopt a new “accountability system” that tracks access to counselors, advanced courses, qualified teachers and other elements that can influence a student’s success in school.

Next page: What the rewrite might feature