Stirrings of movement are occurring in Washington even while most pundits continue to see the prospects for reauthorization of ESEA as unlikely this year. While idealogical lines are being firmed up (see the US Chamber of Commerce position) Secretary Duncan remains optimistic that the job can be completed this summer. Rep. John Kline (R-MN), new Republican chair of the House education committee, told the Heritage Foundation last week that he has a plan. What is is his plan? Quite simple really, just do it a little at a time. After holding a series of hearings, which for the most part seemed aimed at confirming his sense that federal involvement in education has gone too far, and traveling around the country seeking further affirmation from parents, teachers and administrators, Representative Kline is ready to begin.
There are three areas which Kline has promised to deal with. First he will eliminate programs that are redundant or unnecessary, he will offer flexibility in spending for states and districts, and he will deal with accountability -although he was less than specific in this area. On may 13th a bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) which would eliminate 43 education programs. many of the programs have already been targeted for defunding, others have been around for a long time and are regarded by many as successful – e.g. The National Writing Project and Striving Readers. Many of the programs being cut were recommended for consolidation in the Obama Blueprint. The next bill expected in June will deal with flexibility, and Kline said that he expected a bill dealing with accountability by the end of the summer. He has mentioned that there is not yet consensus on what exactly schools should be accountable for and to whom they are accountable. It is likely to introduce the concept of growth models and focus more attention on the lowest performing schools.
Meanwhile in the Senate a bill called the STAR (School Turnaround and Reward) Act has been introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) which deals with Turnaround schools and would further legitimize the four models introduced as a requirement for receiving School Improvement Grants. The bill includes incentives to force more schools to choose the more draconian, albeit unproven models such as the “Turnaround Model” and “closing schools and reopening as charters.”
Beyond these bills the heavy money still says no reauthorization in sight. The only consensus seems to be that No Child Left Behind is broken and needs fixing. Most groups with skin in the game have staked out their positions and freely shared them with Congress. Not everyone agrees that radical change is necessary. Most recently the US Chamber of Commerce with the assistance of Margaret Spellings offered their Statement of Principles:
In order for the Chamber to support ESEA reauthorization legislation, the bill must:
- Contain rigorous accountability provisions that are clear, transparent and include all students and all schools;
- Prepare students to be college- and career-ready;
- Provide real choices and options for students and parents; and
- Recognize and reward effective teachers and principals.
The Guiding Principles include:
- Incentivize Rigorous Academic Standards
- Encourage Transparent and Rigorous Accountability
- Recognize and Reward Excellence
- Replace Failure with Success
- Encourage and Reward Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Teachers and Leaders
- Encourage Viable Options for all Students