NCLB Not Left Behind?

DC Shuttle …

NCLB reauthorization debate heats up. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave remarks regarding the reauthorization of the now-expired No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. He said that the administration would not back away from annual testing as it works to reform K-12 education, according to a report in the New York Times. Annual testing was enshrined in NCLB to provide benchmark measurements, especially for minority students, but has become very contentious since. Duncan called for any proposed education bill to also include increased access to preschool.

HELP chair introduces NCLB reauthorization bill. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a 400-page draft bill that would reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act. On the controversial question of testing, Alexander offered two options for debate. One would allow states more freedom in deciding how and when to test; the other would continue to require annual testing from grades 3 to 8 and into high school. Under either system, local school districts could use their own state-approved program. This provision is just one of several that would transfer more power to the states under Alexander’s bill. States would also be given more control over educator quality and accountability, as well as more choice in the usage of certain funds. The proposed legislation would eliminate the 21st Century Community Schools program, education technology state grants, and all of President Obama’s signature programs except the Teacher Incentive Fund grant program. The draft bill will likely undergo heavy scrutiny in the next several weeks, as lawmakers struggle to create the bipartisan bill that Alexander promised. One provision likely to be the subject of fierce debate would allow eligible students to transfer Title I funds to the public school of their choice, an important priority for conservatives. The issue of testing is also likely to factor heavily into debates. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member on the Education Committee, spoke from the Senate floor, expressing her desire to maintain annual testing. The Senate HELP Committee planned to hold a hearing on this issue Wednesday.

Report says majority of public school kids are in poverty. According to a report released by the Southern Education Foundation, 51% of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in the 2012-13 school year. This marks the first time in 50 years that a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families. By this measure, more than half of the students starting kindergarten will already be trailing behind their more privileged peers. These students rarely catch up, in part, because they are less likely to have strong support systems at home, access to enriching activities, or the ability to continue with their education.

President Obama proposes student privacy bill. President Obama announced he was taking action to protect student privacy by proposing a bill which would prevent the sale of student data for purposes unrelated to education. According to a press release, the proposal would not prevent the use of data for research which could “improve student outcomes” nor would it hamper efforts by companies to improve their educational technology. Instead, the bill would prevent data from being used for “purposes unrelated to the educational mission,” such as targeted advertising. As proposed, the legislation would only directly affect elementary and secondary schools, though higher education would likely be affected, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Lawmakers respond to president’s free community college plan. Last week, President Obama announced his plan to offer two years of free community college to eligible students. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were quick to respond. Sen. Alexander issued a statement saying that such a proposal would be better handled on a state level. Rep. John Larson (D-CT) applauded the plan, saying in a statement, “no hardworking American student should be denied an education that allows them to gain the credentials or skill set required to succeed in our knowledge based economy.”

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Jan. 20, 2015. 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:  



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