The long-delayed revision of No Child Behind (aka the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESEA) might actually happen this year. Or not.
A conference committee will try to reconcile a bipartisan Senate bill with a Republican-only House bill, reports Alyson Klein in Ed Week‘s Politics K-12. Key issues to resolve include “whether the updated law should include a preschool program, whether states should be able to allow federal funding to follow students to the school of their choice, and just how states should measure school performance.”
Both versions of the new ESEA limit the Education secretary’s power, writes Klein. There’d be no more setting policy by waiver.
Under the Senate bill, the secretary of education is prohibited from monkeying around with standards, tests, state goals, school turnaround remedies, and accountability systems. And the secretary would be specifically barred from offering conditional waivers, as Duncan has done. The department would get to approve states’ plans for using federal Title I money for low-income students, but it would only have 90 days to review them. (That’s compared to 120 days under current law.)
And states whose plans aren’t approved by the education department would get the opportunity to revise them, and even demand a public hearing exploring the reasons for their rejection. That would eliminate a lot of the behind-the-scenes-back-and-forth on the finer points of accountability plans that’s been a hallmark of the waivers.
The two bills are weak on accountability, editorializes the Washington Post. The Senate bill would let states “define which schools are struggling and when and what — if any — remedies should be adopted,” while the House bill would “water down testing requirements and allow parents to opt their children out of tests.”
Here’s Mike Petrilli’s cheat sheet for ESEA.