Sen. Alexander's ESEA Draft Offers Two Options on Testing
By Lauren Camera and Alyson Klein
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, kicked off the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, by saying he wants to start a dialogue about testing.
And Tuesday, he did just that, releasing a 400-page draft bill, obtained by Education Week, to renew the law that outlines two different potential paths for the committee to take on the sticky issue of whether to continue with the law's annual, statewide assessments.
Option A: Give states lots of leeway on how they assess students, a sort of choose-your-own testing-adventure option. States could test only in certain grade spans, use portfolios, try out competency based tests (an idea that New Hampshire wants to move forward on), or use a system of local assesments. States could also go their own way on testing. And they would not have to submit any testing ideas for approval to the Education Secretary.
Option B: Stick with the assessment language we pretty much already have in current law, where states test in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school.
Otherwise, the bill seems to hew pretty closely to Alexander's own ESEA renewal bill from 2013. For example, under the bill teacher evaluation through test scores would be optional. The bill would also eliminate a host of programs, including the 21st Century Community Schools program, which offers grants for after-school programs and education technology state grants. And it would scrap the School Improvement Grant program, a key priority for the administration.
Other vestiges of the NCLB law, including an ultimate goal for student achievement and language requiring teachers to be highly qualified (meaning hold a bachelors' degree and state certification in the subject they are teaching) would also be stripped out, giving more control of educator quality back to states.
The measure also includes language that would allow federal Title I dollars to follow students to the public school of their choice. That's a huge priority for conservatives and a similar proposal was Sen. Alexander's ESEA Draft Offers Two Options on Testing - Politics K-12 - Education Week: