Ed Advocates Chime in Hot and Cold on No Child Left Behind Rewrite

As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) began markup of the Every Child Achieves Act today, education advocacy groups are making their thoughts on the proposed legislation known.

Designed to update and fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left behind, a draft version of the Every Child Achieves Act was released last week.

Reaction to the draft legislation has been mixed, as exemplified by the comments of Mary Kusler, government relations director at the National Education Association (NEA).

"The Every Child Achieves Act takes a number of steps in the right direction, but also has drawbacks that should be improved going forward," wrote Kusler in a letter to the HELP Committee.

Kusler's letter praises the bill for acknowledging "the critical role of all educators," provisions to preplace adequate yearly progress metrics and "one-size-fits-all sanctions and interventions" with more flexible and locally determined supports and interventions, proposals to strengthen management relations with labor and the bill's allowance for "funding to be used to improve equitable access to teachers, principals, and other school leaders, and to reduce class sizes for low-income and minority students."

Kusler also writes that the bill fails to provide measures to close the opportunity gap, "does nothing to reduce the excessive testing happening across the country," fails to include language to prevent the re-segregation of schools, "promotes pay for performance, which research shows does not work" and does not ensure adequate funding for programs that help ensure student success, among other criticisms.

"Again, we are hopeful that further improvements will be made to address equal educational opportunities for students and look forward to working with you this week to ensure that the bill helps the students it is intended to serve. Our goal remains a final ESEA reauthorization that truly promotes opportunity, equity, and excellence for all students," Kusler's letter concludes.

Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), similarly praised the bill while urging changes in a formal statement on behalf of his organization.

"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," wrote Krueger.

"It is important, however, to further improve the draft bill by providing sustained federal support for technology and related training in schools," Krueger added. "The Baldwin-Hatch Amendment [to update the Enhancing Education Through Technology program] ensures that underfunded districts and disadvantaged students obtain the required learning tools to succeed in postsecondary education and be career ready."

Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP) said in a statement that the bill improves on "the original discussion draft released by the chairman to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The bill eliminates the harmful portability provisions that would have drained resources from our neediest students and schools. It requires school accountability systems to incorporate all students in all schools. It addresses concerns about the overemphasis on high-stakes tests by allowing for more holistic school accountability systems while also ensuring that parents and other stakeholders have information about how their students are performing through statewide annual assessments in core subjects.

"The bill, however, represents a missed opportunity to ensure that all students can succeed by failing to invest in preschool and perpetuates resource inequity by failing to address our unfair school funding system. It eliminates virtually all obligations for states and school districts to intervene and provide support to schools with large achievement gaps or their lowest performing schools. And finally, it does nothing to create incentives for states and school districts to examine their assessment systems to eliminate harmful, duplicative, or low-quality tests."

The full text of the bill is available at help.senate.gov.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].