GOP-only No Child rewrite passes House

House Republicans have passed a No Child Left Behind revision called the Student Success Act — with no Democratic support, reports Education Week.  Schools would have to test students and report scores by subgroups, such as English Learners, special education students and low-income students. However, “states and school districts would get a lot more say on how they hold schools accountable” for students’ progress.

That has advocates for some school districts (including the American Association of School Administrators) pretty happy. But civil rights organizations, the business community, and urban districts are not on board. More on what’s in the bill and who likes and hates the bill here.

The Student Success Act no longer requires school districts to use student outcomes to measure teacher effectiveness. Now it’s optional.

The bill “walks away from low-income students and students of color and threatens to wipe away 40 years of educational progress,” charges Education Trust.

Bipartisan compromise is very unlikely. The likelihood of reauthorization before 2015 is roughly 2 to 3 percent, estimates Rick Hess.

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s “completely partisan and very different” NCLB rewrite passed the Senate Education Committee with no Republican support, notes Ed Week.  Furthermore, “it’s unclear if the Obama administration, which has its own waiver plan, even wants a reauthorization.”

Accountability light and lighter

Sen. Tom Harkin and the Democrats have proposed a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind). So have Sen. Lamar Alexander the the Republicans. Both “move away from the strong federal accountability system at the center of the much-maligned NCLB law, but to different degrees,” reports Ed Week.

The Harkin bill would require states to create accountability systems that essentially build on the administration’s waivers (which are in place in 37 states plus D.C. so far), meaning that states would have to set goals for student achievement and come up with some sort of system to help turn around the schools that are struggling the most. The Alexander bill, on the other hand, would continue to require states to test in grades 3-8 and once in high school, but the senator is counting on transparency to be the main lever for school improvement. And under the Harkin bill, schools would be on the hook for helping the bottom five percent turn around—plus fixing another 10 percent of schools with big achievement gaps. There’s nothing like that in the Alexander bill . . .

Harkin wants teachers to be evaluated based on student achievement with the results used to ensure that low-performing schools get an “equitable” share of high-quality teachers. The Alexander bill eliminates the provision on “highly qualified” teachers and leaves teacher evaluation to the states.

The House Republicans don’t agree: Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education committee, wants to mandate teacher evaluation. He introduced his ESEA reauthorization bill today.

Alexander also would let “federal Title I dollars follow a child to any public school they want, but not to a private school or for outside options like tutoring,” writes Klein. And the Alexander bill specifically forbids the U.S. Secretary of Education from requiring districts to adopt certain tests, standards, or accountability systems.

Harkin claims to be ending federal “micromanaging” of schools and offering states “flexibility.”

That’s laughable, writes Mike Petrilli on Fordham’s Flypaper blog.  He lists 40 policy questions that Harkin’s bill decides, ranging from “equitable distribution of quality teachers” to collaboration time for teachers in low-performing schools.

School report cards must include  (“detailed data on the number of pregnant or parenting students and their outcomes,” data on “school violence, bullying, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, in-school student suspensions, out-of-school student suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, school-based arrests, disciplinary transfers (including placements in alternative schools), and student detentions” for each subgroup, etc.)

Fordham favors “reform realism” about the limits of federal power. On Dropout Nation, RiShawn Biddle calls that “mushy.” He thinks both bills are “lackluster.” But, at least, Harkin is trying to hold schools accountable.

States would still have to provide data on how districts and schools are helping poor and minority children, keeping one of the most successful aspects of No Child’s accountability provisions. States would also have to provide families with an “equity report card” complete with data on how well districts are doing in providing comprehensive college preparatory courses – including Advanced Placement classes – to all kids; this would make data easily accessible to families so they can make smarter decisions and be lead decision-makers in education.

But Harkin repeats the Obama administration’s error of focusing on the worst-performing schools and letting the rest off the hook, Biddle writes.

Neither bill will pass, nor will there be “anything even resembling a compromise, anytime ever until there are new folks in Congress (and maybe a new president),” writes Alyson Klein. That means rule by waivers will continue.

Harkin bill: No aid for ‘worthless’ degrees

Sen. Tom Harkin’s Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act, introduced last week, would cut off federal college aid to unaccredited programs at for-profit colleges that don’t qualify graduates to take licensing exams for jobs in their fields of study.

Teacher ed goes online (and mostly for-profit)

Online teacher education is booming,reports USA Today, which has been crunching U.S. Education Department data.

Virtually unknown a decade ago, big online teacher education programs now dwarf their traditional competitors, outstripping even the largest state university teachers’ colleges.

. . .  four big universities, operating mostly online, have quickly become the largest education schools in the USA. Last year the four — three of which are for-profit — awarded one in 16 bachelor’s degrees and post-graduate awards and nearly one in 11 advanced education awards, including master’s degrees and doctorates.

A decade ago, in 2001, the for-profit University of Phoenix awarded 72 education degrees to teachers, administrators and other school personnel through its online program, according to federal data. Last year, it awarded nearly 6,000 degrees, more than any other university.

Most new teachers earn bachelor’s degrees in education at traditional colleges, such as Arizona State, the nation’s leader. “But online schools such as Phoenix and Walden University awarded thousands more master’s degrees than even the top traditional schools, all of which are pushing to offer online coursework.”

Of course, if districts stopped paying teachers more for master’s degrees, the master’s market would collapse.

For-profit colleges, hit hard by the Harkin report for high tuition and low graduation rates, do no worse than public colleges and universities that admit all applicants, a defender argues.

Civil rights, disability groups trash Harkin bill

Adequate Yearly Progress bites the dust in Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind, now out in draft form. Instead, students would have to make “continuous improvement,” reports Ed Week.

There would be no specific achievement targets, either for entire groups of students, or for particular subgroups, such as minority students, English-language learners, or students with disabilities. In the vast majority of cases, states would decide how—and whether—to intervene in schools.

Harkin worked with Republican Sen. Mike Enzi on the bill.

Where’s the teeth? ask critics.

. . .  Democrats for Education Reform already likened the draft’s “continuous improvement” standard to saying you’re losing weight without ever getting on the scale.

Advocates for poor, minority and disabled students complained the bill has “no meaningful mechanism” to hold schools, districts or states accountable in a letter to Harkin and Enzi. The groups included the National Council of La Raza, the Education Trust, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The lack of goals is “a total deal breaker,” said Amy Wilkins, the vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust.