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Senate, House Committee Staff Discuss Direction for Accountability in ESEA

At a briefing yesterday on Capitol Hill, staff members from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the House Education and the Workforce Committee spoke about the school turnaround process and the new direction of accountability in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

A staff member of the Senate HELP Committee expressed support for the accountability roadmap designed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as a model for states to follow when creating accountability systems (Read more about CCSSO’s accountability roadmap on the NASDCTEc blog). Systems modeled after the roadmap would still be required to meet high standards, but they would also be provided with more feedback and support to help schools make continuous improvements. The staffer commented that the HELP Committee would still focus on performance targets in ESEA reauthorization but that targets will be more realistic. To improve the school turnaround process, the staffer said that starting points for the Committee include looking at data, autonomy, school readiness, community buy-in, and student supports.

A staff member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee found a great deal of common ground in the House and the Senate’s views on ESEA reauthorization, but he said that the fundamental difference is in what each sees as the appropriate role of federal government in education. According to the staffer, the Committee is first looking at the progress made at the state and local level, and attempting not to interfere with this progress. The Committee’s primary concern is deciding for what schools should be accountable and to whom they should be accountable.

Both Committees agree that data collection and analysis are key components of the school improvement process.

The House is expected to present an accountability bill this fall that will be the fifth and final piece of its ESEA reauthorization package. So far, the House has approved the first and second bills in this series.

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