Friday, November 13, 2015

Tentative deal struck on a replacement for No Child Left Behind - The Washington Post

Tentative deal struck on a replacement for No Child Left Behind - The Washington Post:

Tentative deal struck on a replacement for No Child Left Behind

Congressional negotiators have struck a tentative deal to replace No Child Left Behind, the main K-12 federal education law, by shifting authority for K-12 schools to states and freeing them from many federal demands and restrictions in place for 13 years.
The deal largely follows the contours of a measure passed by the Senate with strong bipartisan support in July, according to several sources briefed on the agreement who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about closed-door negotiations.
And it plucked a few ideas from a bill passed by House Republicans in July, including the elimination of several programs that were deemed ineffective by the federal government or had never been funded.
The agreement maintains the federal requirement that states test students annually in math and reading in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and publicly report the scores according to race, income, ethnicity, disability and whether students are English-language learners.
And it requires states to intervene in schools where students are testing in the lowest five percent, where achievement gaps are greatest, and in high schools where fewer than 67 percent of students graduate on time.
But states would determine what action to take, and they would also have the freedom to define progress and set timetables for their schools to reach the goals the state has set.
And for schools that are not the worst performers, states would decide how to judge their performance, how much weight to give to their standardized test scores, and whether to use test scores to evaluate teachers.
The law affects the nation’s 100,000 public schools.
The negotiators, staff members of key House and Senate committee chairmen and ranking members, think the deal straddles the differences between Republicans, who want to dramatically reduce the federal role in education, and Democrats and the Obama administration, who insist that the federal government make sure at a basic level that states are educating all children, including those who have been historically under-served.
The deal would significantly reduce the authority of the U.S. Department of Education, prohibiting the secretary from influencing state academic standards and assessments, requiring teacher evaluations or using grant programs to influence state education policy.
“Under this, the secretary is allowed to get coffee,” quipped one lobbyist familiar with the agreement.
The deal includes a provision championed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to create competitive grants to help states coordinate various early-childhood programs. The program would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services; Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate education panel and a former U.S. Secretary of Education, has been opposed to expanding the portfolio of the education agency.
The agreement leaves intact the current formula for the way the federal government distributes about $14 billion annually to help educate low-income students. The program, known as Title 1, follows a complex set of formulas that favors states with large populations and wealthy states that spend a lot on education. Rural states, and states with smaller populations, tend to receive less on a per-pupil basis, and lawmakers from those states sought to change the formula to receive a greater share.
Instead, negotiators agreed to amend another formula used for another program, Title 2, which is designed to help states train teachers, in a way that would favor rural states, sources said.
Congressional sources say they expect the deal to be presented to both chambers for a vote after Thanksgiving.
Passage would be significant; lawmakers have been unsuccessfully trying to rewrite the law for eight years.
When it was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, No Child Left Behind ushered in an era of test-based accountability for schools. For the first time, the federal government required states to test students in math and reading and to make steady academic progress until every student in the country was “proficient” by 2014, or face increasingly severe penalties.
Those goals were later seen as unrealistic, and the law had unintended consequences: Many schools squeezed out art, science and other subjects to focus on math and reading; cheating scandals erupted; and some states Tentative deal struck on a replacement for No Child Left Behind - The Washington Post: