by Colleen Flaherty
The House of Representatives passed an ultimately flawed bill last week to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill, known as the “Student Success Act,” passed 221 – 207 with no Democratic votes in support and 12 Republicans voting against the bill for final passage (see how your member voted).
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Legislators from both parties agree that the current ESEA, known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is simply not working. While the original purpose of ESEA was to help raise achievement and increase equity, the current law relies far too much on high-stakes tests used to label and punish students and schools. However, replacing it with the “Student Success Act” is a step in the wrong direction.
The amendment that most compromised the act, proposed by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), would dilute the impact of the Title I program by creating portable entitlement. This will end up draining funding from schools with high concentrations of poverty.
Nonya Brown-Chesney – a North Carolina educator and parent of a child who attends a Title I school – has grave concerns over what loss of Title I funds could mean for equity in education.
“If they lose funding, how are they going to bridge the achievement gap? That’s my concern,” said Brown-Chesney. “What’s going to become of the students who depend on their school’s services?”
Every student deserves the same chance regardless of where they live or what their home or incomes are. Every student deserves a solid public education, and if there are things that are needed in the classroom then it is our duty to provide those things for every student.
Gail Trobaugh, an Indiana special education teacher, hopes that this isn’t the end for the fight to reauthorize a fair, flexible and innovative ESEA.
“I would be saddened if Congress missed this opportunity to fix this law, and in doing so, improve education for all students,” said Trobaugh. “NCLB is leaving children behind. It’s time to start really listening to the teachers and school personnel who work directly with kids.”
Fortunately for the nation’s educators, many House members from both parties are starting to listen, especially on the issue of high-stakes, poor-quality testing implemented under No Child Left Behind.
While the final bill was not what the nation’s students deserve, a few positive amendments passed thanks to the support of educator activists across the country. One successful bipartisan amendment – led by Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) – requires states to use multiple measures of school success, so that accountability systems go beyond just test scores.
Another victory influenced by activists was an amendment by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) that prevents a federal mandate requiring teacher evaluations be singularly based on student achievement data without any protections of collective bargaining.
“Kids are people, and their education and improvement should be data supported, not data driven,” said Trobuagh. “Please listen, pay attention, and act to improve our schools – not just our test scores.”