Harkin-Enzi advances

The bipartisan Harkin-Enzi bill to rewrite No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) made it out of committee with all the Democrats and three Republicans on board.

Credit Arne Duncan’s waivers for motivating the senators to take action, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. The Dems seem willing to vote for anything, he writes. The Republicans, notably Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former U.S. Education secretary, will have lots of clout.

“Civil rights groups and lefty reformers are getting rolled,” he concludes. Federally enforced accountability has lost political support. 

Petrilli thinks Harkin-Enzi is better than NCLB. Like Alexander Russo, I’m not so sure the states will hold schools accountable for educating all students. Duncan said the bill should include accountability, but didn’t fight for it — at least not in public — notes Russo. 

. . .  are they just hoping that this all falls apart on the Senate floor and in the House so that they can do the waiver thing?   

Meanwhile, President Obama’s plan to fund teachers’ (and public safety officers’) jobs died in the Senate when two Democrats and Independent Joe Lieberman sided with Republicans.

Harkin-Enzi: Threat or menace?

No bill at all is better than the revised version of the Harkin-Enzi bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind), writes Kevin Carey on The Quick and the Ed. The draft version would have required states to “implement some kind of legitimate multiple-measure process for evaluating teacher effectiveness” and ensure that low-income and minority students aren’t “disproportionately taught by ineffective teachers, as identified by the evaluation system.”  That’s gone now, in response to demands by school boards, principals and teachers, notes Anne Hyslop.

The Harkin-Enzi bill to  is a “hodgepodge of half-baked ideas” that should be rejected by progressives and conservatives, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. But he likes the revised version better than the original, calling the equitable distribution of teachers rule “a Fairyland provision.”

(Republicans should) scrap the bill and start over — with Senator Alexander’s proposal as the jumping-off point. It’s a much stronger bill, closer in many ways to the Administration’s own Blueprint, and much more serious about re-calibrating the federal role in education.

While Rick Hess also prefers Sen. Lamar Alexander’s ESEA bills, he sees Harkin-Enzi as a workable bipartisan proposal that limits burdensome federal regulations.  Here’s his opinion on the revisions.

Alexander has endorsed the revised version of Harkin-Enzi, notes Politics K-12.  The National Education Association likes it.  But Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to require teacher evaluation.

It’s not all bad, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation. But it’s mostly bad. Harkin-Enzi, Alexander and Duncan’s waivers all give up on education reform, he argues.

There’s little enthusiasm for Harkin-Enzi in National Journal’s debate. It weakens accountability too much for the reformers and not enough for the No Child haters.

I predict stalemate.

NEA likes GOP bill to revise NCLB

How’s the ice skating in hell? The nation’s largest teachers’ union likes the Senate Republicans’ No Child Left Behind overhaul, reports Politics K-12.

The National Education Association sent a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander supporting his NCLB revision bill.

In particular, the union is in favor of the accountability provisions in the bill, which would largely leave decisions about how to fix all but the bottom 5 percent of schools to states. The Alexander bill would also offer additional options for states seeking to turn around struggling schools. (NEA isn’t such a fan of the current menu put forth by the Obama administration.)

. . . The union also likes the fact that the bill would maintain disagreggated data (breaking out student performance by subgroup), and allow for multiple measures to demonstrate student achievement.

The union even likes the bill’s teacher-quality provisions, which provide merit pay incentives but don’t require districts to pay extra for performance.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin is negotiating with Republican Sen. Michael Enzi on another NCLB rewrite. A draft could be released next week, predicts Politics K-12.

Like the waiver package and the Alexander bill, many of the proposals under discussion represent a signficant departure from current law. They would put most of the federal focus on schools that are struggling the most, leaving states to decide what happens when it comes to student achievement in the vast majority of schools, including for particular subgroups of students.

The drafts now circulating don’t set achievement targets as long as students are improving. States wouldn’t need federal approval of their college-and-career-ready standards.


ObamaFlex isn’t very flexible

ObamaFlex — the reform-linked waivers for No Child Left Behind — claim to be tight on goals and loose on strategies, but the plan is heavy on tight and light on loose, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

States would have to adopt Common Core Standards or prove their own standards prepare graduates for college. But states want waivers now and it will take time to prove  standards are “college ready.”

If a state decides to back out of Common Core Standards — perhaps because the standards-linked tests are inadequate –will the feds withdraw the waiver? Cut off funding?

A state can propose its own approach to accountability, for example – as long as it includes “annual measurable objectives,” “priority schools,” “focus schools,” “reward schools,” and on and on and on. This is kind of like Henry Ford’s approach to car colors.

The teacher evaluation mandate sets out six rules for all school districts to follow.

If we’ve learned anything from No Child Left Behind, it’s that to mandate a good idea is to kill it.

There’s a better way to fix No Child Left Behind, argues Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, in the New York Times. Alexander, a former Education secretary, has introduced a set of bills in Congress.

GOP on NCLB: Rollback or reform?

States would have more say in school reform under a No Child Left Behind rewrite proposed by key Republican senators, led by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former U.S. secretary of education. The GOP leaders are introducing five bills to reauthorize NCLB, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

It’s a “stunning retreat on two decades of education reform,” blasted Democrats for Education Reform.

Senate Republicans to poor and minority children: Fuggedaboutit, headlines Dropout Nation.

Don’t “roll back hard-won progress in student achievement,” responded Education Trust.  “When left to their own devices, states have a long, well-documented history of aiming far too low and shortchanging the schools that serve our most vulnerable children.”

It’s a rollback of NCLB’s excesses that preserves education reform, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

The reform package . . . would eliminate “adequate yearly progress,” hand “accountability” back to the states, and undo the law’s “highly qualified teachers” mandate. But it doesn’t abdicate Uncle Sam’s interest in reform, or in the country’s neediest students. States would still be required to take dramatic action to turn around their very worst schools. Title I funding would continue to flow to the highest-need schools and districts. Students would continue to be tested in grades 3-8 and once in high school, and the results would continue to be reported widely and by subgroup. The approach is tight-loose, incentives over mandates, transparency over accountability. It’s “reform realism” through and through.

The bills require states to adopt college-and-career standards, but don’t push Common Core Standards.

One bill is modeled on the pro-charter school bill that passed the House this week.

Republicans are winning the education debate, writes Joan Richardson in Phi Delta Kappan. In the PDK/Gallup Poll numbers, “Americans favor charter schools (70%), favor allowing parents to choose a child’s school (74%), believe unionization is bad for public school education (47%), and that natural talent is more important than college training (70%). Any way you slice it, those ideas have been part of the Republican reform agenda.”