Tag Archives: highly qualified

U.S. Senate education leaders release bipartisan bill to rewrite ESEA

This week the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released their highly anticipated bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The two authors negotiated the details of the bill, The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, over the past two months and settled on a compromise that would significantly reduce the federal government’s role in education but maintain the annual testing schedule developed under NCLB and exclude a Title I funding portability provision.

To begin, a quick refresher is in order. Chairman Alexander released a draft version of a rewrite of the nation’s primary education law in January and a series of hearings in the HELP committee immediately followed. ATPE submitted testimony in conjunction with those hearings that dealt with testing and accountability and supporting teachers and school leaders. We also weighed in on the discussion draft proposed by Alexander. Meanwhile, on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) released his own version of an ESEA reauthorization bill entitled H.R. 5 – The Student Success Act. H.R. 5 quickly moved through committee in early February and was debated on the floor of the full House in late February. However, in the final hours of debate and with the threat of veto issued from the White House, House leadership delayed the vote. Leaders said that move was made in order to debate a funding bill that faced a midnight deadline, but it is widely understood that the House didn’t have the votes to pass the bill and leaders wanted to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

The Senate HELP Committee will mark up the new Alexander/Murray compromise bill next week on Tuesday, April 14, at 9 a.m. (Central Time). Visit the committee’s website to watch the mark up live or access committee documents on the bill. Some major provisions of the bill are as follows:

Accountability

The Every Child Achieves Act would allow states to develop their own accountability systems, which is a departure from current law. State accountability systems would need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education (peer review teams would be established to assist the secretary of education in the review of state plans) based on parameters outlined in the bill, such as the inclusion of graduation rates, a measure of post-secondary education or workforce readiness, proficiency rates for English language learners, and standardized test results. However, states would be able to include any additional measures of performance and would have the authority to weight all measures as they see fit. That flexibility would include how much weight is placed on student performance on standardized tests.

States would still be required to report disaggregated data on student subgroups. They would also still be required to identify low-performing schools through accountability system results, but would only monitor school districts as they implement their own methods of evidence-based intervention.

Testing

The most discussed piece of Chairman Alexander’s original draft bill was the portion on testing, which offered two options intended to spur discussion among committee members. The options were to keep the current testing schedule or scrap annual testing and give states a significant amount of leeway in developing their own testing systems. The Every Child Achieves Act maintains the annual testing schedule, but does give states the option to conduct one annual test or a series of smaller tests that combine to a summative score. Additionally, in what is likely an attempt to appease supporters of state-developed systems, the bill creates a pilot program that would initially allow the secretary of education to permit five states to develop innovative testing systems. If successful, the program could be expanded.

Curriculum Standards

States would be required to adopt “challenging state academic standards.” Those standards would not have to be approved by the Department of Education, and the bill specifically states the secretary of education would not have the authority to “mandate, direct, control, coerce, or exercise any direction or supervision” with regard to the adoption of state standards.

School Choice and Privatization

The primary provision in Alexander’s earlier draft bill aimed at school choice involved the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. That language is not included in The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. Title I portability language has received strong backing from Republicans and would allow Title I funding to follow students from school to school. Democrats and President Obama have opposed the inclusion of such language and the White House based its threat of veto on H.R. 5, in part, on portability language included in the bill.

The new bill consolidates two federal charter school programs into a program that includes three grant programs: High-Quality Charter Schools, Facilities Financing Assistance, and Replication and Expansion. Additional language aims to incentivize better transparency and quality among state charter schools.

Educator Evaluations

States would have a lot of discretion on how to spend money related to teacher quality under Title II. That could include the development of an educator evaluation system, but no state would be required to develop a system, which is departure from current law. Thus, there is no language requiring the inclusion of student outcomes in an educator’s evaluation.

The new bill removes the statutory definition of “highly qualified” as well as some of the requirements surrounding the term and allows states to develop their own definition.

U.S. House education committee passes ESEA reauthorization bill

As we reported last week, Congressman John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, filed his version of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly referred to as no Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill, H.R. 5–The Student Success Act, is similar to a bill he filed last Congress, which passed the House education committee and House floor but stalled in the Senate.

Chairman Kline’s education committee met to mark up his recently filed piece of legislation on Wednesday. The bill passed the committee on a partisan vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposing the measure. Several amendments were adopted during the markup and many more were defeated. One failed amendment came from Democrats who offered their own version of a reauthorization bill; the amendment was voted down on another party-line vote, this time with all Republicans opposing. Below is a look at The Student Success Act by issue following revisions made during this week’s committee markup.

Accountability

Similar to Senator Alexander’s draft legislation, Kline’s bill would scrap adequate yearly progress (AYP) and allow states to develop their own systems of accountability based on parameters outlined in the bill. Approval of states’ plans would be subject to those parameters as well as to a peer review process developed by the secretary of education. Under Kline’s bill, the peer review teams would be appointed by the secretary and would be made up of at least 65 percent practitioners and 10 percent representatives of private sector employers. In addition, states’ plans would have to support effective parental involvement practices at the local level.

Kline’s legislation also requires that states and school districts continue to prepare and disseminate annual report cards. The report cards would be required to include certain information, like graduation rates and disaggregated data of student performance on state assessments. An amendment adopted during the committee markup added data on military dependent students to the list of disaggregated data that states and districts are required to collect.

Another accountability system amendment passed during the markup allows states to delay the inclusion of English language learners’ assessment scores during students’ first few years in US schools.

Testing

Kline’s bill would keep the current NCLB-designed testing schedule, which requires that students be tested in reading and math every year in grades 3-8 and once in high school and that they be tested in science once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12. States would still be required to disaggregate data based on certain student populations.

One amendment offered during the committee markup would have supported the study of states’ assessments through a grant program aimed at eliminating redundant or unnecessary tests. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn. Republicans expressed opposition throughout the hearing to measures that would grow government or cost money. This also meant the defeat of amendments dealing with early childhood education, dropout prevention, STEM programs, and technology, among other issues.

Curriculum Standards

Under the House committee’s proposal, states would be required to adopt their own curriculum standards in math, reading/language arts, and science, as well as any additional subjects a state may choose. Each state would also be required to adopt English language proficiency standards and have the option to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

As we predicted in a previous Teach the Vote blog post, Common Core is specifically addressed in Kline’s legislation; the bill would prohibit the secretary of education from requiring that states adopt any particular set of standards, including Common Core.

School Choice and Privatization

As is also the case in Senator Alexander’s draft bill, the primary provision in Kline’s bill aimed at school choice is the portability of Title I funding for low-income students. The bill would allow Title I funding to follow eligible students from one public school to another public school. Kline’s bill does not include provisions related to voucher programs, but an amendment was offered during markup that would have expanded the Title I portability provision to include students attending private schools. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn during committee due to lack of support, but we can expect to see similar amendments offered when the bill is debated by the full House.

One additional amendment offered during the committee markup would have increased accountability and transparency for charter schools, but the amendment was defeated.

Educator Evaluations

The bill would allow states to develop their own educator evaluation systems, if they chose, and would not require that student outcomes be included in an educator’s evaluation. While Kline has been a proponent of tying teacher evaluations to students’ performance on state tests (such language was included in Kline’s bill last Congress), he ditched the provision in the current bill in order to seek broader support from those who oppose the evaluation mandate.

A few amendments aimed at teacher quality were proposed during the markup but were defeated. The Kline bill gets rid of the “highly qualified teacher” requirements in current law and consolidates several teacher quality programs that exist in current law.

Other Issues

Kline’s legislation would consolidate several major programs aimed at educating certain populations of students, such as English language learners and migrant students, into the larger Title I program for low-income students, and states would receive block grant funding with far fewer strings attached to how the money is spent.

Ultimately, only four amendments were added to the bill during committee markup. All were authored by Republicans. In addition to the two adopted amendments mentioned above (pertaining to the disaggregated data of military dependent students and accountability requirements for English language learners), the committee passed an amendment to address student and teacher privacy and an amendment to require an annual report on the reduced federal role in education and cost savings resulting from H.R. 5.

The House has scheduled the bill for debate and a floor vote on February 24th. We will provide an update on Teach the Vote following any floor action, and you can follow the debate live here.

Highlights of Oct. 25 SBEC meeting

The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) met today and took action on several items.

The board held a lengthy discussion on plans to implement new certification exams for EC–6 and 4–8 generalists in response to 2013 legislation. House Bill (HB) 2012, which ATPE supported, requires the board to ensure that generalist certificate applicants demonstrate proficiency in all four of the core subject areas (math, science, social studies and English/language arts/reading). Currently, it is possible to pass the generalist certification exam without being proficient in all four of the core subjects. Several concerns have been raised about the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA’s) plans for complying with HB 2012.

One area of contention is the timeline for replacing the existing tests with the new exams. TEA does not plan to allow any overlap period in which both the old and new exams will be administered, and once the new tests are launched, certification candidates who took the expired tests will have only one year to complete all the other requirements for certification. Several representatives of alternative certification programs spoke today urging the board to allow for a two-year transition period.

Also, under a framework developed by TEA staff members, anyone who fails a single section of the new exam will be required to retake the entire five-hour test covering all four subjects. While this is not a requirement of HB 2012, TEA contends that logistical hurdles will make it difficult to administer retests that only cover particular subjects. Calling that decision “unfair” and “ludicrous,” several board members asked the staff members to reconsider the plan and discuss possible alternatives with the testing vendor.

Another concern about the new generalist exams is the fact that they will be designed to test only the four core subjects. This, too, is a TEA decision rather than a requirement of HB 2012. Many fear that teachers in self-contained classrooms at the elementary level might no longer be able to teach additional subjects such as health, PE or fine arts if they have only been tested in the four core subjects. TEA advises that they are still researching this issue, including possible implications for those teachers’ “highly qualified” status, and they have not yet proposed any changes to the state’s assignment rules. ATPE will be watching this issue closely and will report on any developments related to the plans for the new generalist certification exams.

Also, SBEC voted today to amend several of its rules in response to other bills that passed in 2013. These changes include making it easier for people to become certified to teach health science technology courses and expediting the processing of certification or renewal applications submitted by military members or their spouses. In addition, pursuant to HB 3793 and HB 642, the board proposed changes to its Rule 232.11 on the types of continuing professional education (CPE) hours required of educators. Read the text of the proposed new CPE rule here.

The board amended its own operating policies and procedures relating to oral argument in disciplinary cases. From now on, the board will allow only two individuals to speak on behalf of a party involved in a disciplinary case being heard at a board meeting.

Finally, the board elected a chairperson, vice chairperson and secretary from among its members. Bonny Cain and Christie Pogue retain their posts as chair and vice chair, respectively, while Suzanne McCall was selected to serve as secretary.

For any additional information about today’s SBEC actions and discussions, feel free to contact ATPE Governmental Relations.

Congressional bill ending government shutdown includes teacher certification provision

Last night Congress passed and President Obama signed into law a measure to end the 16-day government shutdown, provide appropriations through Jan. 15, 2014, and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. As the dust settles in Washington, a few surprising provisions have been spotted in the new law.

One such addition relates to the federal requirement under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), that teachers be “highly qualified.” As originally enacted in 2001, the NCLB’s definition of a “highly qualified” teacher covered only teachers who became certified through traditional routes, excluding those who were alternatively certified.

Over the past few years, Congress has adopted a number of temporary measures to enable alternatively certified teachers to be treated as “highly qualified.” ATPE has supported the extension of the definition to prevent those teachers from being penalized under NCLB. Last night’s bill to avert a fiscal crisis enables alternatively certified teachers to continue to be treated as “highly qualified,” at least until the end of the 2015-16 school year.

Although some critics of alternative pathways to teaching have objected to these extensions of the “highly qualified” definition, this latest move is good news for thousands of alternatively certified teachers in Texas, who now make up the majority of newly certified teachers in our state.

Of course, the “highly qualified” teacher requirements make up only a fraction of NCLB, which is long overdue for reauthorization. The failure of Congress to overhaul the law has forced Texas and most other states to seek waivers of many outdated and impractical aspects of NCLB. Members of the education community continue to hope that Congress will act in the near future to update and improve the law through reauthorization.