Print this Article

U.S. Senate to Begin Debate on Bipartisan Bill for ESEA Renewal on July 7

June 25, 2015

Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), following Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s announcement that the Senate would take up their bipartisan agreement to “fix No Child Left Behind” on Tuesday, July 7, said they look forward to an open debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (a renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA), which passed unanimously out of committee in April.

“The consensus that Senator Murray and I, along with the entire Senate education committee, have found is this: Continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement,” said Alexander. “In the Senate education committee, we had three days of discussion and debate, considered 57 amendments, approved 29 – improving the bipartisan agreement Senator Murray and I reached.

“I look forward to that same level of discussion on the Senate floor – ultimately leading to a result that will ensure that all 50 million students in our nation’s 100,000 public schools can succeed. If senators were students in a classroom, none of us would expect to receive a passing grade for unfinished work. Seven years is long enough to consider how to fix No Child Left Behind.”

Sen. Murray added “There are two things that nearly everyone across the country agrees on: Every child in America should have access to a high quality education—and our existing federal education law, No Child Left Behind, needs to be fixed in order to make that promise a reality. The bipartisan compromise coming to the Senate floor is a strong step in the right direction, and I look forward to working with Democrats and Republicans to build on the work we’ve done so far and send an education bill to the President’s desk that works for our states and schools and makes sure every child has an opportunity to get a good education no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.”

Alexander and Murray released the following description of “what the bill does”:

  1. Strengthens state and local control: The bill recognizes that states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, have the responsibility for creating accountability systems to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. These accountability systems will be state-designed but must meet minimum federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government is prohibited from determining or approving state standards.
  2. Maintains important information for parents, teachers, and communities: The bill maintains the federally required two annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. These important measures of student achievement ensure that parents know how their children are performing and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet state standards. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems. The bill also maintains annual data reporting, which provides valuable information about whether all students are achieving, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.
  3. Ends federal test-based accountability: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of No Child Left Behind, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but will be able to determine the weight of those tests in their systems. States will also be required to include graduation rates, another measure of academic success for elementary and middle schools, English proficiency for English learners. States may also include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.
  4. Maintains important protections for federal taxpayer dollars: The bill maintains important fiscal protections of federal dollars, including maintenance of effort requirements, which help ensure that federal dollars supplement state and local education dollars, with additional flexibility for school districts in meeting those requirements.
  5. Helps states fix the lowest-performing schools: The bill includes federal grants to states and school districts to help improve low-performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems. School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low-performing schools, with technical assistance from the states, and the federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve these schools.
  6. Helps states support teachers: The bill provides resources to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, principals, and other educators, including allowable uses of funds for high quality induction programs for new teachers, ongoing rigorous professional development opportunities for educators, and programs to recruit new educators to the profession. The bill allows, but does not require, states to develop and implement teacher evaluation systems.
  7. Reaffirms the states’ role in determining education standards: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.

Click HERE for the legislation.

Sources:  Office of Sen. Lamar Alexander



A Total School Solutions publication.