Saturday, February 18, 2012

Federal K-12 Footprint at Core of ESEA Hearing

This from Education Week:
Congressional lawmakers in charge of overseeing the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act are deeply divided on the right role for the federal government in K-12 education, a split on display at Thursday's hearing on a pair of bills before the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The measures, introduced Feb. 9 by the committee's chairman, U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., would significantly scale back the federal role in overseeing K-12 policy, leaving nearly all accountability decisions up to the states. They have yet to garner Democrat support. Schools would still test students in reading and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school, but the bills would get rid of the adequate yearly progress provision at the center of the law and allow states to craft their own accountability systems. States would be able to come up with their own improvement strategies and decide which schools to turn around. And states wouldn't have to offer free tutoring or school choice for students in schools that are struggling...
But Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the panel, said Mr. Kline's legislation would take away very important federal protections, particularly for specific subgroups of students, such as English-language learners and students in special education. The No Child Left Behind Act, of which the ESEA is the current incarnation, "turned on the lights" when it came to how those students were performing relative to their peers, he said. "The federal government plays a critical role here," Rep. Miller said. "It can create guardrails to ensure equity. It can ensure that, when states, districts, and schools have to make hard decisions, those decisions are not made on the backs of children."...
But there are various approaches being pushed on how to overhaul the NCLB law, widely seen as outdated and broken in key respects. For example, the House bills would require states and districts to evaluate teachers, using student performance as a significant factor. That's something the Obama administration also wants to see in the reauthorization. Such language isn't in the Senate bill, however. And it was Republicans such as U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming who argued against it. They see mandating teacher evaluation as the wrong role for the federal government. The 3.2 million-member National Education Association also is vehemently against the evaluation language...
Rep. Kline's legislation would zero out the federal School Improvement Grant program, which offers states resources for turning around their lowest-performing schools. The program, which requires participating schools to choose one of four improvement models, has been criticized for being too prescriptive.

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