On July 8, the U.S. House of Representatives completed its work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). H.R.5 the Student Success Act squeaked by with a vote of 218-213.
On July 16, the U.S. Senate passed S.117, the Every Child Achieves Act, to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 81-17, with three Democrats and 14 Republicans voting against the measure.
The two bills will now head to the conference committee who will draft a compromise bill that both houses can accept and send to the President for his signature. It is anticipated that the conference committee deliberations may be contentious as the House and Senate bills are significantly different in addition to the potential threat of a Veto from the President. The conference committee is usually composed of the senior Members of the standing committee of each House that originally considered the legislation. Stay tuned for the announcement of the conferees.
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) opposed H.R.5 due to its lack of support for children with exceptionalities and the professionals who work on their behalf. CEC has concerns with the Student Success Act as it: reduces the accountability for students with disabilities, removes the 95% participation rate for all students; removes the 1% cap on alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards; lacks focus on professional development; eliminates HQT; includes performance pay that is solely based from standardized test scores; increases privatization; ignores high-ability students; eliminates MOE; permits Title I portability provisions; ignores early childhood; allows parents to opt out of state tests; and includes new requirements without adequate resources.
While the Senate bill is not perfect, it has many provisions that CEC supports which include those that: eliminate AYP; maintain disaggregation of subgroup data; support early intervening services in general ed, UDL, and PBIS; maintain the 1% cap on alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards; prohibit modified standards and assessments; maintain Javits Gifted and Talented Act; support early childhood programs; maintain MOE; prohibit Title I portability provisions; and allow but doesn’t require new teacher evaluation systems.
Unfortunately, both bills eliminate accountability safeguards to ensure that children and youth with disabilities receive the resources they need to succeed. As the bills move toward conference many Democratic Senators and President Obama are advocating for strong accountability provisions and equitable distribution of resources in the final bill.
Secretary Duncan issued a statement upon the passage of the Senate bill calling for strengthened accountability. The issue of accountability will undoubtedly be challenging in conference for both the Congress and the Administration.