Senate education leaders released their bipartisan draft of the bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act [No Child Left Behind (NCLB)] on Tuesday, April 7.
The bill, titled Every Child Achieves Act, cuts back on the federal footprint in education by providing more authority to the states and reducing the powers of the Secretary of Education. It retains the current federal testing requirement—students would continue to be tested in English and math in third through eighth grades as well as once in high school, and science tests would also be administered three times between third and 12th grade—but the language does away with the current NCLB accountability provisions and allows states to develop their own accountability systems. The bill also continues to provide federal funding to the states to support teacher and principal professional development and school wrap around services, but allows the state to decide how these funds would be spent.
Although the bill does retain testing for math and science, it does not treat STEM education as a national priority. It removes the Math and Science Partnership program (Title II B) and places no priority for STEM-related activities in the state grants provided for teacher programs. This is a huge disappointment to many in the STEM education community.
Mark up for the bill in the Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to begin Tuesday, April 14. At that time, we expect that many amendments—including an amendment on STEM education—will be introduced and considered by the HELP Committee. Stay tuned and watch for upcoming emails from NSTA for the latest news and information, and how you can be involved in the process to rewrite the nation’s federal education law.
- Read the press release from the Senate HELP Committee.
- Read a summary of the bill.
- Read the bill.
- Read and contact Jodi Peterson (email@example.com) to sign your organization on to the STEM Education Coalition advocacy letter.
Here are some of the highlights in the bill.
Standards: Continues the current requirement that States must adopt reading, math, and science standards aligned to college and career readiness. States can decide what academic standards they will adopt without interference from Washington. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core.
Testing: Annual testing is maintained. Students would be tested in English and math in grades 3-8 and once in high school; science tests would be required to be administered three times between grades 3 and 12. A pilot program would allow states to experiment with “innovative assessment systems” within the state.
Accountability: The bill maintains annual reporting of disaggregated data of groups of children, but ends No Child Left Behind’s accountability system. States would be responsible for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems. States will also be required to include graduation rates, one measure of post-secondary education or workforce readiness, and English proficiency for English learners. States must meet some federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students.
Teacher Evaluations: Would end federal mandates on evaluations and the federal definition of a “highly qualified teacher” and allow states to develop their own teacher evaluation systems if they choose to do so.
Math and Science Education: Eliminates the existing Title II.B Math and Science Partnership Program from Title II. Provides all Teacher Quality Funding to states through formula grants.
Title II Teacher Professional Development: Continues funds to states and districts for teacher and leaders support, including high quality induction programs for new teachers, ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers, and programs to recruit new educators to the profession.
Title I Dollars: Does not allow federal funds that support low-income students to follow students between schools (known as Title I portability).
Title IV: Provides wrap around services to improve students’ safety, health, well-being and academic achievement during and after the school day.
Early Childhood: Includes a provision clarifying states, districts and schools can use Title I, Title II, and Title III ESEA funds to improve early childhood education programs.
Core Academic Subjects: Adds writing, music, computer science, technology, and physical education to the list of disciplines it defines as “core academic subjects.”
Low-Performing Schools: School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low performing schools. The federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve those schools. States monitor interventions implemented by school districts and take steps to further assist school districts if interventions are not effective.
Charter Schools: Updates and strengthens charter school programs by combining two existing programs into one Charter Schools Program.
Rural Schools: Maintains the authorization of the Small, Rural School Achievement Program (SRSA) and the Rural and Low-Income School (RLIS) program.
Reaction to the bill was mostly positive, but mixed. The White House, in a statement, called the agreement an “important step in their bipartisan effort.”
Senator Murray said there’s more work to be done, but the agreement is a “strong step in the right direction,” while Senator Alexander said the bill “continues important measurements of the academic progress of students but restores to states, local school districts, teachers, and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement. This should produce fewer and more appropriate tests. It is the most effective way to advance higher standards and better teaching in our 100,000 public schools.”
Read the Washington Post article on more reaction to the Senate ESEA draft.
Stay tuned and look for upcoming issues of NSTA Express for the latest information on developments in Washington, DC.
Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. e-mail Jodi at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter at @stemedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.