by Richard Long
The Senate education committee chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has posted his proposal to rewrite No Child Left Behind on the committee website.
The measure is called: Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013. The 1,150-page proposal is scheduled to be revised in committee on June 11. It has all of the committee Democrats as original sponsors and no Republicans. This point will be made more significant later in this brief discussion.
Proposed Changes to No Child Left Behind
The proposal is a comprehensive bill to make many changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 of which No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was the last rewrite. It incorporates many of the ideas from NCLB that emphasize collecting information on subgroups within a school and district as well as the need for an accountability system that is based on the individual state’s standards. (In this proposal the standards are “career- and college-ready standards” in reading/language arts and mathematics. A state may chose science if the state wishes to include that subject as well.)
The scope of Title I is changed to much more explicitly include early childhood and working with programs such as Head Start. Requirements for spending on high schools is also changed with a district having to give additional emphasis to high schools with children living in areas of high poverty (so that these schools are no longer being excluded from the program due to the need to serve the district’s schools with the highest percentage of poverty first).
Integrating the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
In addition, there are more requirements to integrate requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and programs serving children whose first language is not English. These two groups also have requirements for when their members must take part in the accountability requirements as well.
NCLB Waivers, Race to the Top, and i3
Also, the measure integrates ideas and requirements that 35 states have agreed to as part of being granted a waiver from some of the requirements of NCLB. These requirements include using student performance data as part of the annual evaluations of teachers and principals. Plus, there are reporting requirements to members of the community concerning teachers who are teaching without a credential or outside their field. Other Obama Administration initiatives are also in the proposal. These include Race to the Top, school improvement, and Investment in Innovation (i3).
Professional Development and the LEARN Act
Of significant interest to IRA members is section 4101, the Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement Act. This is section provides funds to high need school districts to support professional development in literacy for teachers working with children age 0 – 5 and Kindergarten through the 12th grade. It is similar to the LEARN Act (in fact, it is its replacement) and the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program.
Proposal Review Scheduled for June 11
The entire measure is scheduled to reviewed and revised by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. It is expected that the Republicans will have a substitute amendment. Senator Alexander (R-TN) is crafting this substitute amendment. If the two political parties do not come to an agreement the Harkin version will be voted out of committee but will not go to the floor unless it has some Republican support.
Richard Long is the director of government relations at the International Reading Association, firstname.lastname@example.org. Find more legislation and advocacy resources in his Hot Topics blog.