House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) plans to bring the Republican bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to the House floor on July 18. The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) was approved along party lines during a House Education and the Workforce Committee markup on June 19. NEA wrote a letter to the committee opposing the bill.
What Needs to Change
- Any ESEA Reauthorization bill MUST fulfill the original law’s promise of ensuring equity. H.R. 5 walks away from the federal commitment to try to level the playing field for students at a time when there are more students and families in poverty than ever. H.R. 5 doesn’t even ask states and school districts to submit plans to demonstrate how they intend to ensure equity of opportunity for students.
- States can undercut education budgets based on possible incoming federal funds. H.R. 5 eliminates the Maintenance of Effort law requiring states to fund education at least at 90 percent of prior year’s levels regardless of additional federal dollars expected. We strongly oppose eliminating maintenance of effort, which will trigger a race to the bottom in state and local support for education as federal dollars would be reduced to backfilling holes in state and local support. Instead, we believe the bill should maintain current law. Federal funding is meant to supplement a state’s education budget, replace it.
- Educators must have a voice in crafting and creating teacher evaluation systems. H.R. 5 marginalizes educators’ voices in teacher evaluation discussions and gives politicians the power to undermine previous collective bargaining agreements.
- High-stakes decisions should not be based on test scores. The bill continues to overemphasize test scores in teacher evaluations. We believe test scores are meant to track students’ progress and to help teachers improve their teaching practice.
- Charter schools must be held to same standards of accountability and transparency as other public schools. H.R. 5 continues current lax policies and fails to address long-standing, significant issues of transparency and accountability to students, parents, and taxpayers in the charter sector. Charter schools are taxpayer-funded public schools, so they should be held to the same accountability standards as all public schools. The bill also punishes states that cap the number of charter schools.
- What about narrowing of the curriculum? The bill continues the current curricular focus on English and mathematics, and does not address concerns regarding the narrowing of the curriculum. Research shows that under NCLB, school districts have cut time from social studies, science, art, music, and physical education–to devote more time to reading and math.
- Our public schools need resources to succeed. H.R. 5 would keep education funding at pre-2004 spending levels through 2019–even though students and schools are already suffering under sequestration.
- Student services are not horses to be traded. H.R. 5 offers states and school districts a trade-off—fewer programs and greater flexibility in exchange for far less money. It eliminates 70 elementary and secondary education programs such as afterschool programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Physical Education Program, and Promise Neighborhoods, among others, and replaces them with the Local Academic Flexible Grant.
- Students deserve qualified teachers. H.R. 5 eliminates all focus on the quality of teachers entering the profession. What we need instead are fixes to the existing highly qualified provisions. We need to ensure that ESEA supports the professionalization of teaching.
- Support for entire school staff! The House bill lacks sufficient recognition of and support for the key roles that qualified education support professionals (ESPs) and specialized instructional support personnel (SISPs) play in helping students reach their goals.
- What about school improvement? The bill increases funds set aside for school improvement but eliminates the School Improvement State Grants program. But there is no assurance that resources will go to the schools and students who need the greatest support, and collective bargaining protections are removed.
- Pay for performance schemes don’t work, yet bill promotes anyway. Research shows test scores based on current standardized tests are unreliable indicators of student learning. In addition, any alternative compensation program should be negotiated or developed collaboratively with educators and their representatives.
What We Like
- No More AYP. H.R. 5 eliminates the demand for 100 percent of public school students to perform at or above grade level on standardized tests by an arbitrary date. Under this proposal, states will determine lowest-performing students and schools based on disaggregated (or targeted) data.
- Using targeted data to get resources where they are needed most. Disaggregating student data into subpopulations can help schools and communities plan appropriate programs and direct limited resources to where they are needed most. This data can also highlight important trends in behavior and achievement. Source: http://www.promoteprevent.org/publications/prevention-briefs/importance-disaggregating-student-data
- No more labeling of schools. The proposal eliminates NCLB’s one-size-fits-all system of labeling and punishing schools based on standardized tests.
- States and local districts decide what’s best to turn around struggling schools. H.R. 5 would no longer require the four prescriptive “turnaround models” for struggling schools.
- Students with disabilities deserve common-sense assessments. H.R. 5 calls for alternative assessments for students with significant disabilities and allows trained teacher teams to determine what is best on a student-by-student basis.
- Engaging and informing parents is crucial to student achievement. H.R. 5 restores funding for parent resources. The bill would create Statewide Family Engagement Centers and provides funding for effective parental involvement strategies.
Amendments NEA Does Not Support
- You Can’t Take it With You. (Amendment 30 – Rep. Cantor (R-VA)) House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has introduced an amendment that would allow a student’s Title 1 funding to follow them to the private or public school of their choice. “Portability” is just another name for a voucher. It would divert funding from Title I public schools, shortchanging precisely the schools and the students that Title I was created to help: those with the largest concentrations of poverty. See NEA’s letter to Congress on a similar amendment introduced during consideration of the Senate’s version of ESEA Reauthorization.
- Private School Vouchers Help a Few at the Expense of the Many. (Amendment 60 – Rep. Bishop (R-UT)) All across the country, we’re seeing an increasing number of efforts to fund private school tuition at taxpayer expense. Regardless of whether it’s vouchers or school choice, the simple truth is these schemes rob public schools of vital funding and resources.
Amendments NEA Supports
- Grade Span Testing. (Amendment 35 – Reps. Gibson (R-NY) and Takano (D-CA)) Prior to NCLB, states had the option to test students by grade span (e.g. once over the course of 2-3 years), as opposed to currently required yearly assessments. Current research shows that the current testing regime has not led to higher standards. Further, research also demonstrates that student performance can be tracked when using data from grade span testing. NEA recommends that the proposed bill restores the option of states to offer testing over grade spans.
- School Success Based on Multiple Measures. (Amendment 53 – Reps. Reed (R-NY) and McKinley (R-WV)) Adequate Yearly Progress must be replaced by a system that recognizes schools that make progress toward achieving learning goals, correctly identifies struggling schools, and provides meaningful support instead of punishment. Determinations of school success must be based on multiple measures, not just limited test scores.
All ESEA Amendments
- Don Young / Gabbard / Hanabusa / McCollum #55 – Support. This amendment restores educational support programs for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students.
- Cardenas #51 – Support. This amendment increases the authorization of appropriations level for English-language learners to accommodate projected increases in the number of students needing services.
- Luetkemeyer #32 – Oppose. States and local school districts currently have rights and responsibilities over curriculum and standards; the amendment is unnecessary.
- Jackson Lee #61 – Support. This amendment would focus funding on the most vulnerable student populations.
- Bentivolio #58 – Oppose. Representatives of entrepreneurial ventures are not key stakeholders in public education
- McMorris Rodgers #2 – Oppose. NEA opposes arbitrary caps on appropriate student assessments and supports empowering the IEP team’s recommendations on individual assessment decisions.
- Reed/McKinley/Owens #53 – Support. Ensures that multiple measures are used to identify academic performance instead of only one-size-fits-all standardized assessments.
- Benishek #3 – Support. This amendment is consistent with the need to generate more data on career technical education programs.
- Scalise / Bishop #67 – Support. We believe that every school district should have comprehensive teacher evaluation systems designed with authentic teacher input and which provide meaningful feedback to teachers from qualified evaluators that helps improve teacher practice and thus improves student learning. We support the Scalise amendment not because we favor an absence of evaluation systems, but because we favor the use of multiple measures including evidence of student learning, evidence of teacher practice and skill, evidence of their contributions to the profession and ensuring the presence of teachers’ voices in the construct of the systems designed to measure teaching excellence.
- Moore / Wilson #29 – Support. This amendment ensures that high-poverty schools are not adversely affected by the change in the formula that allocates funds under Title II.
- Bishop #76 – Oppose. This amendment denies local school districts the option to apply for Title II funds directly should the state refuse to submit an application.
- Polis / Petri #25 – Support. This amendment, among other things, encourages outreach by prospective charter school operators to low-income families and other underserved populations.
- Velazquez #68 – Support. This amendment ensures that applicants consider the needs of low-income students and parents not proficient in English. We believe meaningful communication between educators and parents, guardians, and caregivers who lack English language proficiency is necessary to assist in their children’s development, education, and the family’s integration into U.S. society.
- Mullin #65 – Oppose. This amendment would turn the Impact Aid construction program into a competitive grant.
- Broun #21 – Oppose. Focusing on salaries of former or current employees at the Department of Education does not advance, and takes away focus from, the educational purposes of the act.
- Culberson #39 – Oppose. Federal grant funds not accepted by state legislatures would be directed toward deficit reduction instead of aiding the education of students that are most in need.
- Cantor / Bishop # 30 – Strongly oppose. This amendment would dilute the very purpose of the Title I program aimed at focusing already limited resources to target and counteract concentrations of poverty. A federal portability plan will create another system of winners and losers – not unlike an over-emphasis of competitive grants over formula grants; create a new administrative bureaucracy to track dollars; and would be especially problematic for rural communities where there are few if any other schools.
What We're Reading
- 03/12/2015 "In 23 states, richer school districts get more local funding than poorer districts" – Washington Post
- 03/13/2015 "For National Education Association leader, the answer is more funding, not testing" – The Statesman (Austin)
- 03/17/2015 "Tests Have Become a Substitute for Real Learning" – US News (by NEA Pres Lily Eskelsen Garcia)
- 03/18/2015 "‘Meckley resigns as recovery officer for York, PA schools" – York Daily Record
- 03/24/2015 "California charter schools vulnerable to fraud, report says" – Washington Post