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Could We Have a New ESEA in 2011?

Having not read the 1000+ page Senate bill to revise and reauthorize No Child Left Behind, I can only tell you what I’ve read about it.

It passed out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee on Thursday, October 24th with a 15 to 7 bipartisan vote and will now be debated in the full Senate.  Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the HELP committee, says he’s hopeful that the bill will be made into law before President Obama’s waivers to certain NCLB requirements are implemented, perhaps before Christmas. 

If passed by the Senate and the House, the bill would change a lot about our current Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  It would eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress requirements and other policies that encourage “teaching to the test,” give parents and teachers greater access to information about student achievement, and improve teacher support and evaluations.  For a more complete list, see the Senate press release.

The Senate HELP committee hopes that this bill will “fix the one-size-fits-all approach created by the No Child Left Behind Act”, “help ensure that every student graduates from high school ready for college and a career”, “support great teachers and principals, and ensure that all children receive the best instruction”, and “focus the federal government’s role on the things it does best, while giving states and communities the flexibility they need to address the unique needs of their students and schools.”

But Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is worried about accountability.  He said:

"I appreciate the efforts of Senators Harkin and Enzi to build into the reauthorization bill more flexibility for states and districts while maintaining accountability at every level. I believe, however, that a comprehensive evaluation system based on multiple measures, including student achievement, is essential for education reform to move forward. This view is shared by both national teacher unions and state leaders all across the country who are committed to doing a better job of preparing our young people for the global economy. We cannot retreat from reform."

Senator Harkin admitted that the bill has flaws, “Like any major piece of legislation, this bill is not perfect, but it is an important step forward for America’s children.  I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and education experts to build on this strong foundation and improve this bill when it is considered by the Full Senate.”

I hope they do get it right and that all those hands don’t “improve” it out of existence.  We need a law that works for our kids.

Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.