Power to the states: Education law rewrite passes Congress

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘No Child Left Behind’ gets left behind: Education reform passes Congress.

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted Wednesday to send President Barack Obama a bill that dramatically overhauls federal K-12 education policy and ends more than a decade of strict federal control over schools. Those federally mandated math and reading tests will continue, but a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s education law will now give states — not the U.S. government — authority to decide how to use the results in evaluating teachers and schools.WASHINGTON — The way the nation’s public schools are evaluated — teachers, students and the schools themselves — is headed for a major makeover, with a sweeping shift from federal to state control over school accountability and student testing.The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved sweeping legislation that resets Washington’s relationship with the nation’s 100,000 public schools, ending the landmark No Child Left Behind Act and sending significant power back to states and local districts while maintaining limited federal oversight of education. “It is the single biggest step toward local control of public schools in 25 years,” said Sen.

While state educators welcomed the decision to move away from the one-size-fits-all federal approach, most of South Carolina’s Republican delegation in Congress voted against the bill, charging it did not go far enough to keep Washington out of local classrooms. South Carolina’s funding would increase from about $28.5 million to $36.3 million, according to Congressional Research Service estimates based on federal education data. But the state’s education advocates say that more significantly the new law shifts the responsibility for improving schools back to the educators who know their schools best. “We are the ones working within the state and for the students and parents, so we would be the best decision makers about the challenges we face within the classroom,” said Bernadette Hampton, president of the South Carolina Education Association. The bill would keep a key feature of No Child: the federally mandated statewide reading and math exams in grades three to eight and one such test in high school.

The legislation, which has already gotten the Obama administration’s tacit approval, is being touted by observers and policymakers from both the right and left as a product of rare bipartisan compromise. “I think this has turned out to be a textbook example of how to deal with a difficult subject,” Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who co-wrote the legislation, told Politico. “When we come to a bipartisan consensus like this, I think the country accepts it a lot better.” Democratic Senator Patty Murray, another architect of the act, tweeted: “It’s not the bill I would have written on my own, it’s not the bill Republicans would have written. The bill — which the president is scheduled to sign Thursday — would dump the current law’s intense focus on test scores and the well-intentioned but impossible goal of having all students reading and calculating at grade level. But it would encourage states to set caps on the time students spend on testing and it would diminish the high stakes associated with these exams for underperforming schools. But its impact also will be felt by school boards, mayors, state legislators, governors, business groups, civil rights advocates, teachers unions and businesses with a stake in a public school market estimated to be worth about $700 billion. “When authority is devolved to the states, you can get very different outcomes,” said Jeffrey R.

That’s compromise.” The most conspicuous manifestation of that bipartisan give-and-take is what’s being highlighted by news outlets and pundits across the country: Schools will still be held accountable for student performance, but states can determine the nuances of how that will take place. Bush in 2002 allowed the federal government to play a major role in telling states how to run schools and how to improve and evaluate their schools’ performance. They’ll have to use “college-and-career ready” standards and intervene when those expectations aren’t met, but states will get to design their own standards and intervention protocol. It was a victory for many Republicans and teachers unions, who were allied in their mission to undercut what they viewed as prescriptive, top-down regulation and intrusion into local schools. Our teaching had been watered down to just the areas where we have been testing instead of other areas that would have a long-lasting impact on students like fine arts and foreign language. “I think we’re going to see educators respond very well to this. (No Child Left Behind) was a tremendous stress on students and teachers, and parents have been upset about this,” said South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who leads the Senate Education Committee, called the legislation a “Christmas present” for 50 million children across the country. Difficult issues remain: how to insure high quality teachers, how to get those teachers into schools that most need them, how to raise the achievement of millions of struggling students. The federal government’s role in running America’s public schools has grown from that of a glorified think-tank, charged with scouring for information to help states build better school systems in the 19th century.

They’ll still be required to administer annual testing in certain grades, ensure at least 95 percent of students participate, and disaggregate data based on students’ race, income, and disability status, but they can use other factors on top of testing to assess student performance, and the details of how the testing happens and how the scores are interpreted are up to states. The Every Child Succeeds Act moves toward allowing South Carolina, along with other states, to determine its own timeline and metrics for measuring improvement in its more than 1,250 public schools.

Patty Murray of Washington — and in the House, Education Committee Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and ranking Democrat Bobby Scott of Virginia. “You’ll see states taking the opportunity to serve kids better, meaning it’s not just a conversation about labeling schools but also a conversation about when a school’s not doing right by kids,” Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, said in an interview. I have always believed that education decisions should be made at a local level and that Congress should empower parents and teachers – not Washington bureaucrats. They also objected to the removal of a provision that would allow parents to opt out of having their children take standardized tests, an amendment sponsored by Salmon. The new bill, which easily cleared the House of Representatives by 359-64 last week, was supported by most House Republicans, including South Carolina Rep. There are risks that states may set goals too low or not act quickly enough, said Daria Hall, vice president for government affairs and communication at the Education Trust.

Changes in the federal education funding formula mean that Pennsylvania will get about $53 million more a year for its schools to spend on programs including science, technology, engineering and math education as well as for advanced placement courses. Senate Republicans supported the bill, with the exception of a handful of conservatives including 2016 presidential candidates Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who don’t think it walks back the federal role in education far enough. But she also said, “Those risks are also really opportunities for states to really step up to the plate and be leaders.” Three presidential candidates missed the Senate vote — Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders. Testing is important but it had become excessive and it created an incentive for schools to teach to the test rather than to help children master content, said Sen.

I am especially grateful that the Every Student Succeeds Act specifically prohibits the Secretary of Education from forcing or coercing states into adopting Common Core. Republicans grew to despise it for how much it allowed the Department of Education to micromanage states and school districts (especially when Obama rose into office). The legislation would create an annual $250 million competitive grant program to support states in planning and expanding preschool programs for low-income children, a priority for the Obama administration. For example, the department could place broad parameters on when a group of students would be considered “consistently” low-performing, signaling a need for intervention. More children from low- and moderate-income families will have access to preschool through a new grant program that is to use existing funding to support state efforts.

Toomey and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., the measure forbids school administrators from knowingly recommending a suspected child abuser for a job in another district. It puts school districts in charge of fixing failing schools, the same school districts that are running the failing schools now.” “In our Senate hearings, we heard more about over-testing than any other subject,” Alexander said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I believe this new law will result in fewer and better tests because states and classrooms teachers will be deciding what to do about the results of those tests.” “Kids are taking standardized tests every three weeks,” said Brown, a policy fellow with Teach Plus, a non-profit that tries to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy. “It was all with the best intentions. Because the regime relied on regular testing of pupils to monitor the schools’ progress, it came to be loathed by teachers, who complained that too much classroom time was taken up preparing pupils for tests. Even before the bill was headed to the president, a swath of education, civil rights and business groups were already lining up ways to shape the law’s implementation. Since the bill returns power to states, advocates plan on waging state-by-state battles over education policy that were previously fought in Washington.

Gowdy, Mulvaney and Duncan did vote to approve the House version of the bill in July, but the final version walked back some of the changes they had supported. The college and career-ready curriculum guidelines were created by the states, but became a flashpoint for those critical of Washington’s influence in schools. My hope and expectation is that it’s an improvement from the weary days of NCLB and the string of Administration driven exceptions which tended to bog down and be susceptible to politics.

The bill provides for more transparency about test scores, meaning parents and others in the community will get a better look at how students in their states and in local schools are doing. That meant the state had to spend $40 million in federal dollars for programs it knew were ineffective, instead of funding all-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes and afterschool programs, said Randy Dorn, the state superintendent for public instruction.

In exchange states had to evaluate teachers and implement standards, such as the Common Core, a controversial set of standards that many states are opting out of or are rebranding. It also authorizes funding for a program that will scale up evidence-based strategies for improving student outcomes and other initiatives that promote innovative reform. States and districts will now be responsible for coming up with their own goals for schools, designing their own measures of achievement and progress, and deciding independently how to turn around struggling schools. Manchin also pressed for making background checks more stringent and for expanding them to include all manner of school personnel from bus drivers to cafeteria aides to contractors who have contact with children.

Washington seems so broken and filled with finger pointers one wonders if a good start can be maintained.” The bill enjoyed wide support among education groups, including the National Parent Teacher Association, American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and the National School Board Association. The Chamber is highlighting the need to continue to focus on minorities this week with a conference it is co-hosting with the NAACP on African-American student achievement.

The bill’s swift passage Wednesday was remarkable for the fact that Democrats and Republicans had struggled for eight years to find agreement, even as states grew increasingly vocal about the need for a new law. It takes a relatively simple federal accountability system, removes the teeth, and layers on a bunch of vague responsibilities for states … Just because something is a compromise doesn’t mean that it will do good things for children.” But all players were feeling “reform fatigue,” said Martin West, an associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “There is no appetite whatsoever for muscular federal reform efforts. Alexander has said school hiring laws, including background check regulations, are best handled by state and local governments, not legislators in Washington. Lawmakers ultimately settled on keeping a federal requirement that schools test students annually — but they gave states more leeway in how much test results matter.

Any time the House bill states a requirement, points out Martin West of Harvard, it uses strong language prohibiting the secretary from using his authority to go beyond what is laid out specifically in the bill. And King will be operating in a different environment than Education secretaries did in the past because of the bill’s limit on the secretary’s power.

He said it contains enough guardrails to keep states from adopting less-challenging curricula that wouldn’t prepare students for college or the workforce. Sanchez, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District. “I’m very glad to see this bill move us away from our current one-size-fits-all approach and restore education decision-making to those who know our school best, ” Sanchez said. We set aside our big differences and really worked on what we could agree on.” Scott, along with most major civil-rights groups, endorsed the deal after adding provisions to give the Education secretary authority to review state-level school improvement plans.

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