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Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line

CER interns had the chance to tune in to a Brookings Institution webinar entitled “Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line”, and listened to former Capitol Hill staffers tackle the issue of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

During the webinar, the failure to reauthorize ESEA was attributed to the introduction of the No Child Left Behind waivers, while failure of HEA was attributed to an abundance of policy proposals and executive orders, like giving letter grades to college institutions.

The overall consensus of the panel was that these bills needed to be updated to currently reflect education of today and the future. Some pointed to the separation of the branches of government and the non-alignment of the political parties as the reason these laws haven’t been updated. Panelists recalled their time in the Senate when legislators only wanted to be involved with the Executive Branch if it was an election year. The fact is there is not a bill that combines both the views of the Democrats and the Republicans, so anything passing is highly unlikely.

It was clear that education has become some sort of a “political football” that will be one a large factor in the upcoming presidential campaigns. Although the Obama Administration tried to pass these education bills, they failed because “shooting at POTUS is more popular than working with him”.

The panelists then took a vote on which bills they thought could hypothetically pass, and the results were mixed: reauthorization of HEA was unlikely, ESEA was 75% maybe/yes, and a proposed standardized higher education bill was a definite no.

I believe that both the House and the Senate need to put aside political agendas and focus on what’s important: THE CHILDREN. They need to figure out exactly

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A Reformer’s Course of Action For the Next Generation of ESEA

Defining the Needs of Substantive Education Reform in Federal Programs
By Jeanne Allen, Alison Consoletti and Kara Kerwin

Policy Perspective
July 2013

PDF version

Despite the lack of consensus on just about every other issue, both sides of the aisle of the 113th Congress seem committed to get something done to reestablish the federal role in K-12 education in the U.S.

What’s even more surprising is that two very different camps are approaching this reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) in seemingly very distinct ways, but may essentially end up at the same place.

With House action taking place in the immediate future, along with the likelihood that a new ESEA may actually get to conference subsequently, it’s time for a real education reform perspective to guide the debate.

Numerous groups and organizations have surely filled the halls of Congress over the past several years and more immediately, the past several months to celebrate and herald those Members who seem most to espouse their own programs and points of view. Most, however, seem to be viewing the ESEA debate through a narrow lens.

This paper defines the proper role of federal programs to meet the needs of all education reform strands combined – not just charter schools OR accountability OR teacher quality but ALL – while putting the interests of parents and students first and ensuring the adults around our schools have the authority and freedom to defy the status quo.

The New Course – Build on Both Versions. Five years overdue, we’re in the midst of much debate on the Republican-controlled House version, H.R.5 Student Success Act, and the Democrat-controlled Senate version, S. 1094 Strengthening America’s Schools Act. While neither version offer the right balance of incentive and consequence, its important to look to the lessons of the past

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Congress Backslides on School Reform

By Kevin Chavous
Wall Street Journal
November 15, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the sweeping school-reform law better known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB): The debate over reauthorization has spawned a political alliance between the tea party and the teachers unions. These strange bedfellows have teamed up to push for turning teacher-evaluation standards over to the states—in other words, to turn back the clock on educational accountability.

On the right are tea party activists who want the federal government out of everything, including establishing teacher standards. On the left are teachers unions who bridle at the notion of anyone establishing enforceable teacher standards. And in the middle is another generation of American kids who are falling further and further behind their European and Asian counterparts.

Numbers released last year by the Programme for International Student Assessment showed that out of the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the numbers an “absolute wakeup call for America” and urged that we face the “brutal truth” of our children’s ability to compete in the global arena.

Yet Washington deals continue to ensure that the people who stand in front of our nation’s classrooms never have to answer for their students’ performance.

Earlier this year, Mr. Duncan told Congress that four out of five schools would fail to meet their goals under NCLB as currently written, so he pushed for the law to be overhauled with waiver packages that allowed states to circumvent the law’s strict provisions on standards. When President Obama also went on record criticizing NCLB’s “one size fits all” school requirements for the nation, the stage was set for a

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Fast Tracking the Status Quo

clock(Originally posted to the National Journal‘s Education Experts blog.)

Perhaps it’s not so unusual that the same person who fought to get a waiver from NCLB’s tutoring requirement is the same person who is pushing a fast track for making the bill’s requirements more flexible. When some of Arne Duncan’s Chicago schools were failing kids, he asked then Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for a waiver from the requirement that students be permitted to leave and take their tutoring money elsewhere. Arne Duncan thought he could do tutoring better than the private sector, so he sought to deliver tutoring rather than send the money out of house. There’s no data on whether it worked, and some in Chicago say not much changed during that period of time following NCLB, other than a heightened awareness of the problem and a tenacity by Duncan to pursue some modest, external reforms (charters, some contracting). Once a school superintendent, always a school superintendent. And while Duncan is not the issue, his brand of reform puts Superintendents and school boards in the driver’s seat. Problem is, last time they drove that car, it kept getting banged up.

But it was NCLB’s teeth – the threat of loss of money or worse – that got people motivated. The hard, fast consequences of accountability, and the spotlight on data, however challenged by differing vantage points, prevented the country from hiding the shameful state of education in our schools, from the world or ourselves…

Read the entire post HERE.

(*Image courtesy of yellowcloud)

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