GOP Senators Introduce Rewrite of No Child to Make it More Flexible

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(Courtesy of AJC)

GOP Senators

I am about to get on a conference call on a new Senate initiative to fix the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But here is the official statement about a series of GOP bills designed to increase the state role and decrease the federal one. Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson is among the sponsors.

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)— all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee — today announced they are introducing a series of education bills to “fix” No Child Left Behind.

The senators said that for the nation’s 100,000 public schools, the legislation would end the federal mandates through which Washington, D.C., decides which schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.

According to the senators, much has happened over the last 10 years and it is time to transfer responsibility back to states and communities. Since No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2002, 44 states have adopted common core academic standards, two groups of states are developing common tests for those standards, and more than 40 states are developing common principles for holding schools accountable for student achievement.

The senators said their legislation would maintain No Child Left Behind requirements for reporting student performance in reading, math, and science.

The legislation would address what the senators said were major problems with the law by giving states and local school districts greater flexibility to:

-Improve state accountability systems

·-Improve teacher and principal professional development programs

- Consolidate federal education programs to give state and local education leaders more freedom in meeting local needs

- Expand the number of charter schools

ALEXANDER: “These bills are about getting Washington, D.C., out of the business of deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding and which are failing. America needs better state and local report cards, not a national school board.”

BURR: “Providing our students with a quality education is the key to their future success and to the continued competitiveness of our nation in the global economy. However, a one-size-fits-all approach designed in and mandated from Washington, D.C., does not work when it comes to education. States and local communities are the best makers of educational decisions and must be empowered with the flexibility to design and fund locally-determined programs and initiatives that meet their varied and unique needs to provide an education that is in the best interest of their students.”

ISAKSON: “No Child Left Behind has built a foundation upon which many children, including students from low-income families, are performing at higher levels in the areas of math and reading. Although we have made progress since its implementation almost a decade ago, it is very important that we take the next steps to continue improving education in America. By reauthorizing No Child Left Behind with the important changes contained in our legislation, we will be making a critical investment in the future of our children and our country.”

KIRK: “We should reform No Child Left Behind by ensuring parents’ right to know how schools are performing while using more common sense measurements. Most importantly, we should expand parents’ access to higher quality, innovative Charter schools where their children have greater opportunities to go to college and succeed in the global economy.”

The senators said the bills accomplish the overall goal of infusing excellence into the nation’s public schools by challenging states to do better, and helping states raised standards in an environment where they are not told what to do by Washington, but are instead free to set, and meet, those standards themselves.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments Act of 2011 establishes a national “college- and career-readiness” goal with accountability systems developed by states without interference by the federal government on state standards or assessments. It eliminates the Washington-based Adequate Yearly Progress system and asks states to identify their lowest-performing 5 percent of schools. It also frees to states to establish their own teacher licensure and certification requirements; maintains public reporting requirements; and dramatically simplifies the Title 1 State plans to reduce paperwork and federal interference.

-Introduced by Senators Isakson and Alexander

The Teacher and Principal Improvement Act of 2011 helps states and local school districts prepare, train, and recruit effective teachers and principals to improve student achievement. States and local school districts would be allowed to develop their own teacher and principal evaluation systems, as well as their own needs assessments to better pinpoint professional development for teachers and principals. It maintains strong reporting requirements to empower parents and the community. It authorizes the Teacher Incentive Fund to allow states and school districts to compete to find ways to pay teachers and principals more for teaching well. It reduces paperwork through simplified Title II State plans.

-Introduced by Senators Alexander and Isakson

The Empowering Local Education Decision Making Act of 2011 streamlines 59 programs into two flexible foundational block grants. It puts states and local school districts in charge by allowing them the flexibility to choose the programs and initiatives that meet their unique needs. Creates the “Fund for the Improvement of Teaching and Learning” and the “Safe and Healthy Students Block Grant.”

-Introduced by Senator Burr, Alexander and Isakson

The Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act 2011 modernizes the Charter School Program by encouraging the expansion of successful charter school models, streamlines the program to reduce administrative burdens and improve funding opportunities, allows successful charter school management organizations and local education agencies to apply directly to the federal government, and encourages sharing of best practices between charter schools and traditional public schools.

-Introduced by Senator Kirk, Alexander and Burr

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