Two weeks ago, when the House Education and the Workforce
two major ESEA reauthorization bills, Democrats and their allies screamed
bloody murder. Ranking member (and former chairman) George Miller called
the bills “radical” and “highly partisan” and said they would “turn the
clock back decades on equity and accountability.” A coalition of civil rights,
education reform, and business groups said
they amounted to a “rollback” of No Child Left Behind.
Miller put forward his own
which most of the self-same groups quickly endorsed,
and which, Miller argues,
“eliminate inflexible and outdated provisions of No Child Left Behind and
requires states and [districts] to adopt strong but flexible and achievable
standards, assessments, and accountability reforms.”
So let’s see how Miller and company do at “eliminating
inflexible and outdated provisions of NCLB” and requiring “strong but flexible”
accountability systems. The package…
states to expect “all” students to eventually reach college and
career-readiness. (Didn’t we learn from NCLB that calling for “universal
proficiency” merely pushes states to lower the bar?)
the screws on NCLB’s “subgroup accountability,” requiring schools to hit
targets on dozens of indicators in order to avoid stigmas and sanctions. (Why
not let states develop new ways to ensure that vulnerable kids don’t get
overlooked—but without all the complexity?)
failure even more likely by adding student growth and graduation rates to
the mix (along with proficiency rates).
- Potentially subjects a high number of
schools to federally-prescribed interventions. Rather than restrict the
proportion of schools that must face the strictest sanctions to five or ten
percent, as Lamar Alexander’s legislative package, and the Administration’s own
Blueprint, do, the sky is once again the limit under the Miller approach.
the way that state accountability systems include students with disabilities,
setting inflexible rules about how many students can take alternate
an enormous unfunded mandate by requiring states to translate examinations
for every language group of 10,000 students or more. In larger states, this could
mean the development of dozens of new assessment formats.
- Penalizes school districts for doing more
with less by keeping intact the “maintenance of effort” requirement—which
substitutes Congress’s priorities over state legislatures’ and county councils’
when it comes to spending limited state/local resources.
- Mandates that
states and districts redistribute “effective” teachers from middle class to
poor schools, even though recent
research indicates that the “teacher effectiveness gap” may not exist.
- Keeps in
place the “Highly Qualified Teachers” mandate, even though its focus on
paper credentials has been completely discredited.
or reinstates myriad pet programs that Congress has already defunded, often
with support from the Obama Administration.
So if Republicans are
“radical,” Miller and his allies must be “conservative” because they
essentially want No Child Left Behind to stay the same.