DC Shuttle: Teacher Quality Under Scrutiny on Capitol Hill

House committee OKs ESEA reauthorization. On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved a proposed reauthorization to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by a vote of 23 to 16. The bill, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), introduced by Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN), would consolidate most federal funding into one block grant. The proposal would eliminate the current accountability system and allow states to develop their own academic standards and assessments. The legislation “reduces the federal role in education by returning authority for measuring student performance and turning around low-performing schools to states and local officials” according to a summary by the committee leadership. The bill eliminates the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metric, streamlines the data reporting that states and school districts must issue and distribute in annual report cards, eliminates more than 70 existing elementary and secondary education programs and removes all “Maintenance of Effort” (MOE) requirements. The bill rewrites the main teacher-quality program in favor of the development and implementation of local- and state-driven teacher-evaluation systems and limits the authority of the secretary of education over decisions in the classroom. The bill must be approved by the House Finance Committee before it can be considered by the full House.

Lawmakers close to deal on student loan interest rates. Ongoing negotiations to reach an agreement to avert the doubling of federally subsidized student loan interest rates on July 1 are reportedly producing a compromise proposal in the Senate. The agreement would peg the rates to the 10-year Treasury bill and include a cap on how high rates could climb. Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) said several details still need finalizing, including specifying a percentage above the 10-year Treasury bill that would be added to the rates. The House passed a bill (H.R. 1911) May 23 that was very similar to the proposal outlined by President Obama but was criticized by Democrats for not including a cap. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) wrote a letter to the president on Thursday calling on him to urge Democrats in Congress to move forward with negotiations.

More time allowed for waiver states on teacher evaluations. On Tuesday, the Department of Education (DOE) announced in a letter that it would allow extra time on teacher-evaluation standards for some states that have been granted waivers from the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Thirty eight states and the District of Columbia have been granted waivers from NCLB provisions by DOE in exchange for replacement rubrics proposed by the states. Those proposals needed approval from DOE and included new systems for teacher evaluations. In response to concern from many states, DOE announced it would allow states to postpone using student growth on state tests as a factor in personnel decisions for up to one additional year, until the 2016-17 school year. States will have to make their case in applications for the new flexibility, and DOE will approve the plans on a case-by-case basis.

Report on teacher-training programs. On Tuesday, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report on the quality of the 1,430 education programs that prepare the nation’s K-12 teachers. The results were not positive, claiming that the country’s institutions are failing to adequately train the 200,000 people who become teachers each year. Part of a $5 million project funded by major U.S. foundations, the report has been endorsed by education secretaries in 21 states, but some universities and education experts said the review was incomplete and inaccurate.

As a member of New England Council, we publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington. This edition is drawn from the Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, of June 24, 2013.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.



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