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Legislative Update: ESEA Proposals Introduced in House and Senate

ESEA Update

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently enacted through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), expired at the end of FY 2008 and has since been eligible for reauthorization. This week, several ESEA reauthorization proposals were introduced in Congress.

Senate Democratic ESEA Proposal

Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced an amendment to ESEA entitled the Strengthening America’s Schools Act. Highlights of the bill include:

  • A new section in Title I called “Pathways to College” focuses on improving secondary schools through a competitive grant process, Advanced Placement courses, and other means.
  • An overall focus on college and career readiness with emphasis on college readiness.
  • District requirements to create teacher evaluation systems based on student achievement with results used for professional development and equitable distribution of teachers.
  • Expansion of early childhood initiatives.
  • State accountability systems that build on the current waiver systems and allow states already participating to continue with this work.
  • States without accountability systems would be required to develop systems to increase student achievement and turn around the lowest-performing schools.

Though parts of the bill focus on college and career readiness and include opportunities relevant to Career Technical Education (CTE) such as dual enrollment and career academies, NASDCTEc believes that there is greater opportunity to focus on career readiness within the bill. We have sent a joint letter to Senator Harkin with the Association for Career and Technical Education to indicate areas of the bill where more components of CTE would be beneficial to all students.

The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to begin markup of the bill next Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

A summary of the bill is available here.

Senate Republican ESEA Proposal

Republicans from the Senate HELP Committee, under the leadership of Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), introduced this week their own proposal for ESEA reauthorization called the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2013.

The Republican proposal is similar to a previous bill introduced by Senator Alexander in the last Congress. The newer version, however, removes key aspects with possible bipartisan support including:

  • Continuation of the School Improvement Grants.
  • Keeping the Maintenance of Effort in place.
  • Continuation of the Race to the Top initiative.

Like the Senate HELP Democrats’ bill, the Republican bill moves away from the strict federal accountability system put in place through NCLB. However, the Alexander bill would eliminate the highly-qualified teacher provision and allow, but not require, states to use Title II to develop teacher evaluation systems that take into account student performance.

The Senate Republican proposal would not allow the U.S. Secretary of Education to require districts to adopt certain tests, standards, or accountability systems, and would give more priority to school choice.

The Democratic and Republican bills are even less similar than those presented in the previous Congress. As such, a compromise on ESEA reauthorization seems less likely and, at the least, the removal of common elements from the proposals may slow the progress of ESEA reauthorization.

House Republican ESEA Proposal

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) introduced this week the Student Success Act (H.R.5), a companion piece to the Republicans’ ESEA bill.

The bill combines three ESEA bills introduced during the last Congress with a few changes.

Of note, the proposal would eliminate the federal Adequate Yearly Progress metric and replace it with state-developed accountability systems. The bill would also repeal the highly qualified teacher provision.  A summary of the bill is available here.

The bill is scheduled for markup on Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

Staff will continue to monitor and share any developments related to these proposals and ESEA reauthorization.

CRS Releases Report on ESEA/HEA Teacher Issues

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a timely report on teacher-related issues that Congress should consider during the reauthorization of ESEA and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

The report, Elementary and Secondary School Teachers: Policy Context, Federal Programs, and ESEA Reauthorization Issues, describes ESEA and HEA provisions related to teachers and the evolution of the teaching field since NCLB was instated. The report laid out key areas of consideration for Congress as they reauthorize ESEA and HEA including the following questions:

Teacher and Principal Effectiveness:

  • Are value-added measures for effectiveness of individual teachers, principals, schools or districts currently feasible across grades and subject areas, and should they be required through federal policy?

Compensation and High-Stakes Decision-Making:

  • Can successful reforms in a limited set of school districts be replicated by scaling up the federal investment?

Equitable Distribution of Teachers:

  • Should federal policy require states, districts, and/or schools to distinguish multiple levels of teacher quality and/or effectiveness in order to better examine questions of equity?

Preparation and Certification:

  • Should current support for traditional teacher preparation programs under HEA (Title II, A) be reworked in light of the development of alternative routes to certification?

Professional Development:         

  • Should the current lengthy definition of “professional development” be amended and should mechanisms be created to enforce the practices described in the definition?

We will share the full report when it becomes publicly available.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

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