Washington, D.C. — Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee began debate on a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, currently known as No Child Left Behind.
John Podesta, Chair and Counselor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Cynthia G. Brown, Vice President for Education Policy, issued the following statement regarding the proposed manager’s amendment to reauthorize ESEA:
The Senate HELP Committee proposal is a comprehensive approach that stands in contrast to the partisan, piecemeal approach taken by House Republicans. The proposal takes positive steps forward in school improvement and funding equity, but it takes steps backward in terms of accountability and teacher policy. While we are not able to support the bill in its current form, we welcome the opportunity to help strengthen the accountability and teacher provisions in future drafts as the reauthorization process moves forward.
Positively, the proposal would ensure federal funding is more equitable and efficient. It would close the comparability loophole that allows districts to provide less actual funds to low-income schools. And the plan emphasizes the need to increase student learning time and authorizes the Promise Neighborhoods program. Additionally, it makes innovation a clear priority by authorizing programs that spur educational improvements, including the Teacher Incentive Fund, Teacher Pathways program, the Investing in Innovation Fund, and Race to the Top.
We have concerns, however, about the accountability and teacher provisions in the proposal. The plan takes a step backward on accountability. Under this proposal, states would not be required to set measurable, quantifiable goals for making student progress. Additionally, the proposal lacks consequences if states fail to meet even broad targets of continuous improvement. Absent goals and positive pressure from the federal government to improve performance, we fear that some states will not set ambitious goals to improve student achievement.
The plan also weakens the teacher equity provision, which ensures poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers. It would only ask states and districts to address inequity without actually fixing it or facing consequences for not doing so. Additionally, the proposal would not require states and districts to create teacher and principal evaluation systems.
We recognize that ESEA’s current accountability system is flawed, and states and districts need more flexibility than they are currently afforded under the law. But flexibility cannot come at the expense of holding them accountable for making progress on student achievement.
In June the Center for American Progress released a comprehensive proposal for reauthorizing ESEA, which is the basis for the above statement.
To speak with a CAP expert on this issue, please contact Katie Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.741.6285.