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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 01 2013

ESEA Reauthorization Challenge: Choose a Side in an Imperfect World

Betting markets are very effective at predicting outcomes because they force all involved to consume the vast amounts of often conflicting and nuanced information and make a simple decision: buy or sell. This, done thousands of times by thousands of people, send a strong and surprisingly accurate signal. With all the talk, all the nuance, all the bad things happening in education, sometimes choosing the better of two options can help you clarify your opinions and priorities in light of our inevitably imperfect world. This is also true at an aggregate level. I challenge everyone to do this with the two competing NCLB reauthorization bills, and explain your answer. I’ll provide a brief summary of each, based on a few hours worth of research. It’s complicated and I apologize if I get anything wrong. You may be surprised at what you pick.


Senate Bill: States must (with possible exceptions) measure growth (not just proficiency); sufficient school growth means students are growing at a rate so that they would be proficient within three years. Teacher salaries (as a whole) cannot vary between title 1 and non-title 1 schools (now schedules are the same, but not total salary). Schools that do not improve adequately can choose from 4 improvement models (3 from NCLB plus “whole school reform” (an evidence based turnaround program), but states can submit own plans. There are many, many requirements about what these improvement models must include. No dramatic stance taken on common core standards. Student outcomes must be incorporated into teacher evaluation, but do not need to play a part in major personnel decisions (salaries/firing). Forces districts/states to collect/publish lots of data, some useful (plans for improving access to full-day kindergarten), some erring on burdensome for schools/overwhelming for consumers. It also mandates that states resubmit improvement plans every 4 years to ensure that slow federal reauthorization doesn’t leave in place outdated policies.


House Bill- States can design their own accountability systems, with a few restrictions (testing grades 3-8, disaggregation of data as in NCLB). Schools can now change funding allocation of state money upon receipt of federal money (removal of maintenance of effort), while merging various programs under title 1. States and districts can intervene in ways they choose for low-performing schools. Dept. of Ed banned from “incentivizing” adoption of common core. Student outcomes do not need to be a part of locally constructed teacher evaluation systems.  Sets education funding at sequestration levels, cutting one billion next year.

So, not an easy choice eh? Most people who dislike strict accountability systems want more money devoted to public schools. As I’ve said a few times, it’s unlikely that we will win on both local autonomy and increased funding, and to some degree, we need to choose. While I appreciate the philosophy behind the house bill,  it does not necessarily prohibit states from stepping in and micromanaging schools in districts. While the diversity might lend itself to research, I find that states often produce worse policies than the federal government. However, the senate bill could also promote some large state bureaucracies, since they delegate a lot to the states but require that a lot of hoops are jumped through and forms filled out. Regarding student outcomes, I am also hopeful that adaptive common-core aligned assessments with diagnostic components will be able to more reliably assess classroom progress than VAM. At this point, I’d have to say I support the senate bill, mainly because of what it doesn’t cut (I found the sequestration cuts to education particularly cruel, given they targeted mainly programs for low income or marginalized populations). But I think I could be swayed in the other direction with a few good arguments, given that the senate bill is still pretty burdensome.

Some useful resources:






2 Responses

  1. B

    Losing the $ sucks, but I’ll still take the House bill.

    That’s a lifelong lefty getting behind Republican legislation. First time for everything.

  2. mches

    Can’t we just tell them both to try again?

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