House of Representatives narrowly passes flawed ESEA reauthorization


Members of the House of Representatives today passed the “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The measure passed 221–207, with no Democratic votes in support and 12 Republicans voting no on final passage. The National Education Association (NEA), which represents more than 3 million public school educators, opposed the bill in committee and raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students.

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“While H.R. 5 contains some positive provisions, as a whole it erodes the historical federal role in public education—to be an enforcer of equity of opportunities, tools and resources so that we can level the playing field. Yet this House bill walks away from creating equity in education—and at a time when poor and disadvantage students and their families need it the most,” said Dennis Van Roekel, Arizona math teacher and NEA president.

“The original purpose of ESEA was to help raise achievement and close gaps in student learning. Educators and parents across the country have been sounding the alarm that the law isn’t working as intended and its overreliance on test scores to label and punish students and schools is not acceptable. Reauthorization of the law presents an opportunity to get it right and really help all of America’s students.

“Members from both sides of the aisle agreed that multiple measures must be used to identify academic performance instead of one-size-fits-all standardized assessments. However, passage this morning of the Cantor amendment to dilute the purpose of the Title I program by introducing ‘portability’ makes the bill even worse, harming students, communities, and undermining the public schools that enroll nine out of 10 American children.

The future of our students will depend on investing in classroom priorities widely recognized as essential to sustained effectiveness, such as quality early childhood learning, smaller class sizes particularly in the early grades, additional learning time, and increased and sustainable funding for public schools. We need to put students at the center of education reform and we need federal legislation that seeks to partner with and support state efforts in meaningful reform, not undermine those efforts.

“As we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, we must work to ensure equity in education. Congress must be willing to make the appropriate investments in order to ensure NCLB lives up to its original goals. That’s why NEA members are urging lawmakers to craft fair, flexible, and innovative K-12 legislation that brings about sustainable positive change for all our students.”

Reader Comments

  1. I am completely in agreement with “Rosie” (July 22, 2013 at 2:51 p.m.). The testing has passed the level of ridiculous and it pushing the lid off of “Imbecility”. Like her, I am also very challenged when it comes to mathematica. And yet, I was able to compute formulas in order to successfully complete my tasks and missions while on active duty in the USArmy for more than 25 years, balance my checkbook for more than 45 years (and still counting) and do my own tax returns since the end of the 60s. With the different categories that “standardized testing” uses to “qualify” kids for advancement, college prez, etc., I am sure that I would not be able to “qualify” for post-secondary studies today. And yet, I earned a B.S., a B.A. and an M.S. (the last in Curriculum & Instruction from one of the top universities in the country). Today’s tests are used to justify disguised discrimination against all who have limited resources, enable the well-off to maintain their superiority and maintain the STATUS QUO for those who want to continue to dominate everyone else. The discipline that I share with my students (World Languages) supports Language Arts primarilly but it also opens their eyes to a world outside of the cage that the “Haves” want to keep them in.

  2. I am saddened that Congress missed this opportunity to fix the law and in so doing, improve public education for ALL students. Kids are people and their education and improvement should be data supported not data driven. The NCLB act is leaving children behind. It’s time to start really listening to the teachers and school personnel who work directly with kids. Please listen, pay attention, and act to improve our schools – not just our test scores.

  3. I am a recently retired teacher. After 28 years in education, I got too tired of the testing and data digging to continue the farce. I have a wealth of classroom experience. I know, by working with my students, what the needs of each one are. I don’t need common assessments to tell me where a struggling student needs help in math or in reading. We must remember, teaching is an art more than it is a science. I can use my knowledge and experience to remediate and/or enrich.

    As far as I am concerned, the teachers are not respected enough by the “powers that be” to make any kind of decisions. Let teachers do what they do best- teach. Get their input for these laws that affect the education of our children.

    1. Ok,let’s look behind the scenes at the real issue as to why we have become overzealous with data & testing. The testing companies & their well paid lobbyists are driving all of this testing in education. Academic testing at all levels is a billion dollar industry, not to mention what the text book companies make each time new standards come out & new text books are written. During George Bush’s administration & the full fledged implementation of NCLB,it is fact that he had a family member who owned a testing company. Kind of a conflict of interest there.

      AS an educator of 30 years, testing has it’s place. However, it should not be the be all end all of determining the course of a child’s education or the punishment of schools & the educators within them. We must take into account a child’s learning style, their interests & strengths, not merely focus on a child’s weaknesses. No one is good at everything academically. That is problem #1 in education. We are trying to put everyone in a box as if they are robots and make them perform in the same way at the same rate, no matter what their ability or disability. Learning cannot be forced under a pressure cooker of demands & expectations. The brain doesn’t learn that way. Further, I don’t know anyone who goes out & gets a job based on their weakness or dislike of that job unless they have no other choice. I was always weaker in math no matter how hard I tried to understand Algebra II. I went on to receive 2 degrees in education & I of course never became a math teacher! I was a Lang. Arts teacher, Spec. Ed. teacher & currently a school counselor. I took a job based on my strengths & interests. I never was an A,B student in math, but I am a successful adult & balance my checkbook & keep a budget successfully. Imagine that.

      We need to rethink education & trying to force all children into 4 year college prep. It is unrealistic & sets many kids up for failure, but it does line the pockets of those benefitting from outrageous college costs & the loan repayment at the end of their college years. We need to offer various opportunities for job/career prep based on a students learning style, strengths & interests, not just a test score. Many students can pass a test & not be employable due to other factors. Likewise, I had many students who received an F in Language Arts who were very bright. They simply hated writing & they went on to become very successful individuals thanks to technology & spell check etc. We force kids who have special needs to memorize math facts when they have poor memory & we don’t let them use calculators – why? I use a calculator to balance my checkbook, figure tips etc. Memorization of facts is old school thinking when we have tools available to help kids who have memory issues. WE should emphasize the problem solving steps & if they need to use a calculator along the way so be it. WE are going to expect these kids to make use of technology as adults, so why not start it in their early education?

      The bottom line is that we need to keep politics & political agendas out of education & look to those who have the experience & knowledge to really make the decisions for educating children.

  4. Do the Obama children take SOLs? I know they go to private school, and private schools are not held to the same standard as public schools, but do the Obama children take SOLs and how do they fare?

  5. I am all in favor of eliminating No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. The federal government should just send California and other states our money and limit federal intervention to protecting the rights of all children under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

  6. I am on the other side of the world but deeply concerned that school education has lost its clear focus. Testing has become more important than teaching. Let’s all learn from Finland where exams begin much later and teachers concentrate on assisting children rather than using so much time on setting, invigilating and marking endless, far from productive tests. Finland has no standardized testing, no streaming, no ability grouping, but has the highest standards of school education!
    Teachers need to be encouraged to be accountable professionals with a heart and the opportunity to TEACH and support young people. Let’s put school education back on track, for the sake of the children and our various countries!!

    1. I work as a paraprofessional in an all-day kindergarten class. I’ve been there 18 yrs. and have helped trained the teachers that came into my classroom. I have to say, I’m very discourage about the system, common core, is playing in the classroom. Our state, NV, opted out of NCLB, but with common core, we are now making our students try to catch up to the grade standards, but in doing this, the grades have skipped some of the foundation that they should have had in the previous grade. I can see it in my grandkids, especially since it began just two years ago. The kindergarten and 1st graders had a chance to begin with the common core standards, but again the other students are playing catch-up, which is not a good thing!!!
      There is more assessing on a weekly basis, testing, and the report card here, doesn’t seem to be important anymore, just the DATA!! The teachers have to input these scores, which takes away from teaching. It is not a good balance, the morale is so down, and no one wants to listen to the teachers, if they say anything they get in trouble. Everyone wants to be a yes person to the district and with “the head in the sand” attitude makes for a poor choice in addressing our problems. There are problems with some, not so good teachers. This is not because of UNIONS, it’s bad administrations that don’t want to address the issue. I can tell you that we have had some teachers that were on the carpet and the administration didn’t follow through. I had to work with one of them. Believe me, she was nice enough, but teaching isn’t her thing. We need someone in Washington to help keep our schools in line to a degree, just like we have the FDA. I do believe, these so called experts, that don’t listen to the teachers or staff that work in the trenches. They take the shortcut and hear from the district superintendents, or principals. These people only want everyone to see the good, not the mistakes. NCLB was a nice concept, but children are individuals and learning should address the progress of a child, with lots of guidance. Parents are so much a big part in their child’s success, that this is a concern for low income areas. We can only do so much while they are at school. Testing is a tool, not the Bible. We have a reading program, that the district seems to cow down to. The teachers hands are tied down by this program and we haven’t really seen the numbers go up that much. Voucher programs are only a bandage, and then there is the transportation costs that Congress doesn’t address. Children today have to walk 1-3 miles because of this issue. It’s all too political, they need to address the real problems, early education and guidance is the key for so many children of any background!!!

    2. I so agree with you.If educating our children to be able to compete in a global economy is such an important part of education, we should look closely at countries that have the most successful education programs and learn from them. The amount of wasted time I have had to spend on administering assessments and tests to first graders is significant. The data we get from these tests is minimally helpful.

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