Democrats Devitalize No Child Left Behind Revisions

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Democrats Devitalize No
Child Left Behind Revisions

Nearly everyone agrees that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) needs to be revised, and both Republican and Democrat lawmakers are scrambling to rework the faulty legislation. If proposed Democratic changes to an in-progress Republican update bill are approved, the resulting mash up could result in a version of NCLB that modifies the policy without actually improving it.

H.R. 3989, the Student Success Act (SSA), would rewrite Title I of NCLB. Representative John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, introduced the bill in January in an attempt “to shrink federal intrusion in the classrooms and return responsibility for student success to states and school districts.” If passed, the SSA would:

  1. Restore state authority for establishing performance ratings
  2. Eliminate “adequate yearly progress”; states must develop their own accountability systems
  3. Eliminate federal intervention into science assessments
  4. Streamline parents’ access to information about school performance
  5. Eliminate the “Highly Qualified Teacher” mandate
  6. Empower states to design school improvement strategies
  7. End the School Improvement Grant program, thus limiting federal intervention into underperforming schools
  8. Provide more funding flexibility

Heritage Foundation Education Policy Analyst Lindsey Burke called the SSA “a good first step in replacing the wrongly directed accountability of No Child Left Behind with transparency about school results to parents and taxpayers.”

Congressman George Miller (D-CA), ranking Democratic member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, called the proposed bill “radical” and “highly partisan” and complained that it would “turn the clock back decades on equity and accountability.” Several dozen advocacy groups for minority, special education, and disabled students agreed. 41 such groups signed a February 16 letter to Rep. Kline from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights which stated that “The bill would thrust us back to an earlier time when states could choose to ignore disparities between children of color, low-income students, ELLs, and students with disabilities.”

Congressman Miller proposed a Democratic amendment to the SSA which has a number of problematic provisions. Miller’s amendment would, for instance,

  • Require “all” students to reach college and career readiness
  • Measure student improvement and graduation rates along with the already required proficiency rates
  • Potentially subject many more schools to federal interventions
  • Closely regulate the way state accountability systems include disabled students
  • Require states to translate examinations for every language group of 10,000 students or more, placing a huge financial burden on some of the larger states
  • Require that states and districts redistribute “effective” teachers from middle-class to poor schools

These and other proposed Democratic revisions significantly weaken the SSA’s attempts to reestablish state authority and result in a new version of NCLB that would have very few advantages over the current program.