Corker And Alexander Hail Senate Passage Of Legislation To “Reverse Trend Toward A National School Board”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Senator Bob Corker applauded the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan education reform bill authored by Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray (D-Wa.).

“With this bill now headed to the president’s desk, Congress has made clear that decisions regarding student achievement should be made at the state and local level, not in Washington,” said Sen. Corker. “Under Governor Haslam’s leadership, Tennessee has seen great success in recent years due to the hard work of our students, educators and parents, and I am pleased this legislation will limit the power and influence of federal bureaucrats and will provide states greater flexibility to work with local school districts to determine what is best for our students. I applaud Senator Alexander for his work on this important legislation and urge the president to sign it into law.”

Following Senate passage today by 85-12, the legislation heads to the president’s desk to fix No Child Left Behind and “reverse the trend toward a national school board, end the federal Common Core mandate, and bring about the ‘largest devolution of federal control to states in a quarter-century.’”

In a speech yesterday on the Every Student Succeeds Act, Sen. Alexander said the legislation will “inaugurate a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement by restoring responsibility to states and classroom teachers.

“We have the opportunity to vote in favor of what the Wall Street Journal has called ‘the largest devolution of federal control to states in a quarter-century.’… Governors, teachers, superintendents, parents, Republicans, Democrats, and students all want to see this law fixed. There is a consensus about that. And, fortunately, there is a consensus about HOW to fix it. And that consensus is this: Continue the law’s important measures of academic progress of students—disaggregate and report the results of those measurements—but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about those tests and about improving student achievement.

“This consensus will end the waivers through which the U.S. Department of Education has become, in effect, a national school board for more than 80,000 schools in 42 states, It will end the federal Common Core mandate.  …It moves decisions about whether schools and teachers and students are succeeding or failing out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and communities and classroom teachers where those decisions belong.”

Noting that No Child Left Behind expired eight years ago, Sen. Alexander said, “We have an opportunity today to provide much needed stability and certainty to federal education policy to some important people who are counting on us: 50 million children and 3.4 million teachers in 100,000 public schools.”

A summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act is below—and the full text of Alexander’s prepared remarks, delivered Tuesday on the Senate floor, is available here.

The Every Student Succeeds Act:

1) STRENGTHENS STATE, LOCAL CONTROL: The bill restores responsibility for creating accountability systems to states, working with school districts, teachers, and others, to ensure all students are learning and prepared for success. The accountability systems will be state-designed and meet minimum federal parameters, including ensuring all students and subgroups of students are included in the accountability system, disaggregating student achievement data, and establishing challenging academic standards for all students. The federal government is prohibited from determining or approving state standards.

2) ENDS THE COMMON CORE MANDATE: The bill affirms that states decide what academic standards they will adopt, without interference from Washington, D.C. The federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards, including Common Core. States will be free to decide what academic standards they will maintain in their states.

3) ENDS THE SECRETARY’S WAIVERS: The bill prohibits the Secretary from mandating additional requirements for states or school districts seeking waivers from federal law. The bill also limits the Secretary’s authority to disapprove a waiver request.

4) MAINTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR PARENTS, TEACHERS, COMMUNITIES: The bill maintains the federally required two annual tests in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12. These important measures of student achievement provide parents with information on how their children are performing, and help teachers support students who are struggling to meet state standards. A pilot program will allow states additional flexibility to experiment with innovative assessment systems. The bill maintains annual data reporting, which provides valuable information about whether all students are achieving, including low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners. 

5) ENDS FEDERAL TEST-BASED ACCOUNTABILITY: The bill ends the federal test-based accountability system of No Child Left Behind, restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States must include these tests in their accountability systems, but states will determine the weight of those tests. States will also be required to include graduation rates, another measure of academic success for elementary schools, English proficiency for English learners, and one other State-determined measure of school quality or student success. States may also include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.

6) STRENGTHENS THE CHARTER SCHOOL PROGRAM: The bill provides grants to state entities and charter management organizations to start new charter schools and to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools, including by developing facilities, preparing and hiring teachers, and providing transportation. It also provides incentives for states to adopt stronger charter school authorizing practices, increases charter school transparency, and improves community engagement in the operation of charter schools.

7) HELPS STATES FIX LOWEST-PERFORMING SCHOOLS: The bill includes a state set-aside for states to subgrant funds to school districts to help improve low-performing schools that are identified by the state accountability systems. School districts will be responsible for designing evidence-based interventions for low-performing schools, with technical assistance from the states, and the federal government is prohibited from mandating, prescribing, or defining the specific steps school districts and states must take to improve these schools.

8) HELPS STATES SUPPORT TEACHERS: The bill provides resources to states and school districts to implement activities to support teachers, principals, other school leaders, and other educators, including through high quality induction programs for new teachers and ongoing rigorous professional development opportunities. The bill allows, but does not require, states to develop and implement teacher evaluation systems.


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