Senate Releases Bipartisan ESEA Bill, Markup Scheduled Next Tuesday

After weeks of negotiations between Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), the committee released a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and set a date for the markup on April 14. The purpose of the Every Child Achieves Act is to “enable states and local communities to improve and support our nation’s public schools and ensure that every child has an opportunity to achieve.”

The following is a summary of Titles I and II of the bill:

Unlike No Child Left Behind, the latest iteration of ESEA, the bill does not provide a specific amount for Title I or any other programs in the bill but instead authorizes “to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2016 through 2021.”

NASSP is pleased to see that the bill eliminates the School Improvement Grants program and the turnaround models that all require the principal to be replaced as a condition for receiving federal funding. Instead the bill would authorize funding for schools to implement school intervention and support strategies, but it provides districts with flexibility in choosing those strategies.

In order to receive Title I funding, states must submit a plan that is developed in consultation with educators, including organizations representing teachers or principals, that provides an assurance that the state has adopted challenging academic content standards and aligned academic achievement standards in math, reading, science, and any other subjects as determined by the state. States must demonstrate that their standards are aligned with entrance requirements, without the need for academic remediation, for public higher education, relevant state career and technical education standards, and relevant early learning guidelines.

Consistent with current law, states would be required to annually assess all students in math and reading in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school. States would also be required to annually assess students in science not less than one time in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12.

The bill would prohibit the Secretary of Education for requiring states to use specific standards or assessments or specify annual achievement goals, requirements for teacher or principal evaluation systems, or indicators of teacher or principal effectiveness.

States would be allowed to adopt alternate academic achievement standards for only students with the most cognitive disabilities (currently the 1% requirement under Title I regulations). They would also be required to adopt English language proficiency standards that are aligned with the state academic standards.

States would be required to develop a single, statewide accountability system that annually establishes state-designed goals for all students, which includes academic achievement or student growth and high school graduation rates. At the state’s discretion, it could include extended-year graduation rates in addition to the four-year cohort graduation rate. The plan would require states to identify schools in need of intervention and support, and then district would conduct a review of the schools and develop and implement appropriate intervention and support strategies.

Title II is structured similar to current law with a number of allowable uses at the state and local level to prepare, train, and recruit high-quality teachers, principals, and other school leaders. The bill would allow states to reserve not more than 3 percent for activities focused on the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals and other school leaders. States could also use the funds to support the design and implementation of teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that are based in part on evidence of student academic achievement or growth and must include multiple measures of educator performance.

School districts receiving Title II funds would be required to conduct a needs assessment to determine the schools with the most acute staffing needs. Funds could then be used to develop evaluation and support systems for teachers and principals; recruit, hire, and retain highly effective teachers and principals; train school leaders on how to accurately differentiate performance, provide useful feedback, and use evaluation results to inform decision making about professional development, improvement strategies, and personnel decisions; recruiting individuals from other fields to become teachers and principals; providing high-quality professional development for teachers and principals; support teacher and principal residency programs; and improving teacher and principal preparation programs. Unfortunately, the bill would still expand the allowable uses under Title II to include reducing class size, supporting school librarians, and providing liability insurance coverage for teachers.

The bill would continue to authorize competitive grants for programs of national significance, but 40 of the funds shall be reserved by the Department of Education for a competitive grant to improve the recruitment, preparation, placement, support, and retention of effective principals and high-need schools. The language is based on the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, which NASSP strongly supports.

The bill also includes a new provision under Title II that mirrors the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act, which is another bill that NASSP helped developed. Districts receiving a grant under this section would be required to develop and implement comprehensive literacy instruction plan with specific requirements for early childhood, grades K-5, and grades 6-12.

Check back on the Principal’s Policy Blog for additional details, and follow @akarhuse on Twitter for live tweets during the committee markup on April 14.

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