Rewriting ESEA

Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — that is, rewriting No Child Left Behind — is on the agenda this year, notes National Journal’s Education Experts. Bipartisan agreement is possible on “fixing the accountability system, targeting interventions at the lowest-performing schools, advancing teacher evaluation and improvement systems, and restoring some flexibility to states,” according to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

Bipartisanship could mean catering to the “worst instincts of both parties,” warns Sandy Kress, who was a Bush education adviser.

A bill that merely “fixes” NCLB by gutting accountability and strutting pretty words about high standards and “flexibility” for the states would be a pitiful and unworthy next step.

It’s easy to criticize NCLB, but it’s going to be difficult to improve it, writes Steve Peha of Teaching That Makes Sense.

People don’t like AYP. Fine. Come up with a better way to tell schools and the people who go to them how they’re doing. People don’t like testing. Fine. Come up with a better way—a viable, actionable, scaleable way—that we can get a read on how kids are doing in school. Same goes for teacher quality. Don’t like VAMs and being held accountable for student progress under measures you don’t trust? Propose other approaches that help teachers improve, reward people for results, and increase the respect of the profession.

NCLB forced “serious discussion of serious ways to help seriously disadvantaged kids,” Peha writes. We can’t give that up.

Drop annual testing in third through eighth grade, advises Monty Neill of Fair Test.  One test in elementary, middle and high school is enough.

Bad blood in Congress

Don’t expect bipartisan cooperation on higher education in the new Congress, Hill staffers and American Enterprise Institute analysts say. There’s a lot of bad blood.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  In an experiment at three Ohio community colleges, paying low-income parents for grades of C or better raised the pass rate.

Inside angle on K-12 politics

What do the insiders think about education politics in the next two years?

Ed Week’s Politics K-12 has the juicy stuff from a subscription-only report by Andrew Rotherham (Bellwether Education Partners and Eduwonk) and John Bailey, a Bush education aide.

Nearly 70 percent think the Republican surge will slow President Obama’s education agenda. Two thirds think the federal role in education will be scaled back.

One person surveyed said: “Next Congress is going to be about cutting spending, repealing Obamacare, and setting the stage for 2012. Noises will be made about how wonderfully bipartisan education can be and Congress will even attempt to make progress, but Harkin [Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee] is incapable of making the right deals to get the Senate Republicans on board, and the House won’t move forward on anything other than piecemeal bills.”

Eighty-three percent expect bipartisan consensus favoring charter schools and 61 percent predict agreement on teacher effectiveness.

. . .  just 9 percent see the possibility of agreement around extending the Race to the Top (a key Obama priority), and absolutely no one expects agreement on increasing K-12 funding or regulation of for-profit colleges (a higher education issue that many in the GOP say has poisoned the bipartisan well for agreement on K-12).

Insiders predict Republicans will revive debate over the end of vouchers in Washington, D.C.  Some think the Republican wave could slow the push for Common Core Standards. Most think states that made reforms to get Race to the Top money will stay the course, even with Republican governors.