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.


Duncan could waive No Child Left Behind

If Congress doesn’t update No Child Left Behind, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’ll waive key requirements “in exchange for states agreeing to adopt other efforts he has championed, such as linking teacher evaluations to student achievement, expanding charter schools and overhauling the lowest-performing schools,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

“Principals, superintendents and children cannot wait forever for the legislative process to work itself out,” Mr. Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. “As it exists now, No Child Left Behind is creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers.”

Revising the law, which requires states to test students in math and reading, was supposed to be this year’s bipartisan achievement. But leading Republicans want to reduce the federal government’s growing role in K-12 schools. Progress has been slow.

Both Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate education committee, and Rep. John Kline, Republican chairman of the House education committee, criticized Duncan’s threat to do an end run around Congress.

Update:  Duncan “is not permitted to remake federal law on the fly,” even if he thinks it’s a really good idea, writes Rick Hess.

After barely convincing Congress to keep Race to the Top on life support, Duncan is intent on unilaterally pushing his same pet priorities through the back door? He’s planning to offer regulatory relief only if states adopt reforms that are utterly absent in the relevant legislation? Facing backlash on the right and left over concerns that the administration coerced states to embrace test-driven teacher evaluation and the Common Core through Race to the Top, Duncan’s strategy is to double down?

Republicans won’t go along, Hess predicts. It’s not clear Democrats will either. Duncan’s favored ed reforms aren’t popular with the teachers’ unions, for example.

“Was the Constitution changed over the weekend abolishing the House of Representatives?” asks Charles Barone, director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform.

Waive the worst parts of NCLB, but “don’t try to tie this stuff to new, made-up mandates,” advises Mike Petrilli.