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Legislative Update: ESEA Hearings, Education Jobs Bill, METRICS Bill

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization Hearings

This week the House and Senate held a number of hearings on issues ranging from data to turning around low performing schools to effective teachers and leaders. During Tuesday’s Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on effective strategies for turning around schools Senator Patty Murray asked about the use of career pathways as a way to improve student achievement (beginning at the 115 minute mark). Robert Balfanz, a researcher from Johns Hopkins University, stated that career academies are one effective strategy that uses career pathways. He also stated that there is evidence that the students who do best in high school are those who take a college preparatory curriculum and a CTE concentration, however only 5% of student nationwide have that combination.

On Thursday the HELP Committee held a roundtable to hear about the problems facing teachers and principals. A key issue addressed by both committee members and witnesses is the need to move from “highly qualified teacher” requirements to defining “highly effective teachers.”

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on Wednesday, “How Data Can Be Used to Inform Educational Outcomes.” Committee members acknowledged the vital importance of using data to improve student performance and teacher instruction, but were concerned about need to protect student privacy.

Keep Our Educators Working Act

Senator Tom Harkin introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010 which would provide $23 billion for an “Education Jobs Fund,” modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that was established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Money could be used for compensation and benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees, and for the hiring of new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational and related services; or on-the-job training activities for education-related careers. This bill is similar to the $23 billion included in the Jobs for Main Street Act which passed the House in December.

Senate Appropriations Hearing on Education Fiscal Crisis

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified in a hearing before the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee this week to discuss the FY11 education budget and the fiscal crisis facing education. Duncan endorsed Senator Harkin’s proposed $23 billion education jobs fund (see above), saying “It’s the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.” Senator Harkin’s opening statement is available here.

METRICS Act

This week Representative Rush Holt and Senator Sherrod Brown each introduced the Measuring and Evaluating Trends for Reliability, Integrity, and Continued Success (METRICS) Act in their respective chambers of Congress. The bill would authorize $65 million in competitive grants to states to improve the use of their statewide data systems and an additional $65 million for a competitive program to LEAs with low-performing schools to help build the capacity to use data to improve student outcomes.

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