by Félix Pérez
It’s been 13 L – O – N – G years, but the Senate voted today, 81-17, to pass a bill that turns away from the Washington-dictated, one-size-fits-all test and punish culture that has hurt students, diminished learning, narrowed the curriculum and frustrated educators and parents. While not perfect, the bill represents a significant step in the right direction, according to the National Education Association, the nation’s largest educators’ union.
Take Action ›
Don’t miss out on the kind of education, legislative and political news you can only get with EdVotes. Click here›
Utah elementary school teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia after the vote said:
Every student in America will be better off under this legislation than the generation of students wronged by ‘No Child Left Untested.’ Educators enter their schoolhouses every morning with one desire foremost in their minds: that every student they encounter that day will know an educator cares for them and is dedicated to reaching, teaching, and inspiring them to reach their full potential. The unmitigated failure of the test and punish culture shackled educators, and we are now one step closer to ending that woeful chapter in American education policy.”
In addition to moving closer toward the original intent of the Elementary and and Secondary Education Act — providing more opportunity for all students — especially those most in need, the Senate bill, the Every Child Achieves Act, stands out for its bipartisan support in a law-making body not known for members of both parties working together.
Shaped and shepherded under the inclusive leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Education Committee, and Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat and ranking member of the Education Committee, the bill marks some noteworthy victories. Among other things, it:
- Moves decision-making to the education professionals who know the names of the students they educate
- Maintains the right of parents and guardians to opt their children out of statewide standardized tests
- Provides greater access to early childhood education
- Preserves the historic federal role in protecting the most vulnerable: children in poverty, students with disabilities, and English-language learners
- Empowers educators with a greater voice in educational and instructional decisions, and
- Requires state-designed accountability systems that include, for the first time, indicators of school success or student support, such as access to advanced coursework, school climate and safety, bullying, and disciplinary rates, including rates of suspension, to name a few.
For a more detailed explanation of the bill, go here.
The bill’s bipartisan support was also evident in some of the amendments introduced, each of which received majority support but was unable to meet the 60-vote threshold. The amendments included:
- One by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to expand a series of school-quality indicators, dubbed the Opportunity Dashboard, that allows parents, educators, and entire communities to track and quantify those things most helpful to students succeeding in the classroom.
- A second by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to protect LGBT students in public schools from discrimination.
Republican support also proved crucial to rejecting private school vouchers multiple times, with nine GOP senators joining Democrats in opposition to at least one amendment: Kelly Ayotte, NH, Roy Blunt, MO, Shelly Moore Capito, WV, Susan Collins, ME, Deb Fischer, NE, Dean Heller, NV, Mark Kirk, IL, Jerry Moran, KS, and Lisa Murkowski, AK.