Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee voted to make significant changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), better known as No Child Left Behind. But, like so many issues considered now in Congress, this vote fell along party lines with all democrats voting for the bill and all republicans voting against it, making it difficult to see how the two sides will come together as the bill continues through the legislative process.
That said, students with disabilities achieved a meaningful victory yesterday with the defeat of an amendment proposed by Senator Isakson (R-GA) that would promote the use of alternate assessments for any student with disabilities, which CEC opposed. Speaking against the amendment, Senator Harkin (D-IA) and chairman of education committee cited CEC’s opposition in his defense of students with disabilities and the importance of high expectations.
The legislation passed by the education committee yesterday, titled the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 (SASA), makes major changes to ESEA and seeks to build upon the 37 states plus the District of Columbia that have ESEA waivers.
While SASA weighs in at 1,150 pages, we’ve included a few highlights below:
- Accountability: Eliminates AYP and States with ESEA waivers could keep in place those accountability systems; states without waivers would have to set up a new accountability system that incorporates student achievement targets and student growth. While all schools would have to report this data, only the lowest performing 15% of schools and schools with the largest achievement gaps would be subject to prescribed interventions, known as turnaround models which CEC largely does not support.
- Assessments: The assessment system remains largely the same as NCLB in terms of the grades and subject matter covered. Though it’s important to remember that the next generation of assessments are now under development, click here and here for more info.
- Alternate Assessments: Prohibits the alternate assessment based on modified achievement standards (known as the 2%) but would put into law the alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (known as the 1%), capped at 1% of the total number of students in the grade level and subject area.
- Teacher evaluation: To access Title II funding (which has traditionally focused on professional development), districts and states must have teacher evaluation systems based in part on student outcomes, as well as other measures such as observation.
- Coordination of early intervening services: Reinforces early intervening services are a joint special and general education collaboration by including provisions in the Title I state plan, professional development, and technical assistance that would ask how a state will assist LEAs in implementing EIS.
- Addresses the Excellence Gap and gifted education: Requires states to describe how they will assist school districts in identifying and serving students with gifts and talents, particularly from underserved backgrounds.
- Establishes an equity report card: Provides data from schools in key areas such as student performance, school funding sources, high school graduation rate, participation in kindergarten, participation in advanced studies (AP, IB, gifted), school climate information, and school discipline data.
- Expands requirements for charter schools to better address the needs of students with disabilities.
- Emphasis on addressing school climate and mental health: Includes numerous provision to support analysis if school climate and access to mental health services.
- Supports research in gifted education: Requires the U.S. Department of Education to continue research and development in gifted education, including the establishment of a national research center and demonstration grants.
- Formally establishes Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation programs.
- Includes the Student Non-Discrimination Act which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Next week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will consider the Student Success Act, the republican vision for ESEA reauthorization in the U.S. House of Representatives. Stay tuned!