Education Committee will begin reviewing details of a plan to update NCLB

nclb-eseaA proposed update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would strengthen state and local control and end federal test-based accountability.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on April 14 is set to begin action on the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, a bipartisan agreement touted as a fix to the divisive No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which in 2001 was the last reauthorization of ESEA.

Written by committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the legislation would give more power to states and local school districts when it comes to creating accountability systems and puts a renewed focus on improving struggling schools.

Next page: Important provisions of the NCLB update

The senators said their proposal would fix many of the problems with NCLB, but also would keep successful parts while ending states’ need for waivers from the law.

Ed-tech advocates and stakeholders voiced their support for the HELP Committee to include the proposed refresh of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act, which would once again direct funding to the program under ESEA, in its discussions.

“The draft bill importantly recognizes the role of technology, with measures that strengthen educator capacity to leverage technology in schools as well as implementing an assessment innovation pilot authority that will help districts build a robust infrastructure for next generation assessments,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.

“It is important, however, to further improve the draft bill by providing sustained federal support for technology and related training in schools. The Baldwin-Hatch Amendment ensures that underfunded districts and disadvantaged students obtain the required learning tools to succeed in postsecondary education and be career ready.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

Strengthen state and local control: The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. These accountability systems will be state-designed but must meet minimum federal parameters.

Maintain important information for parents, teachers, and stakeholders: The bill maintains the federally required two tests in reading and math per child per year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems within states. The bill also maintains annual reporting of disaggregated data of groups of children.

End federal test-based accountability: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of NCLB, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems.

Help states fix the lowest-performing schools: The bill includes federal grants to states and school districts to help improve low performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems.

Reaffirms the states’ role in determining education standards: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core.

The legislation also includes physical education and music as core academic subjects.

“Our agreement continues important measurements of the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement,” Alexander said. “This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests. It is the most effective way to advance higher standards and better teaching in our 100,000 public schools.”

“While there is still work to be done, this agreement is a strong step in the right direction that helps students, educators, and schools, gives states and districts more flexibility while maintaining strong federal guardrails, and helps make sure all students get the opportunity to learn, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make,” Murray said.

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