Here are some key provisions of the bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now being put in final form by members of Congress. These highlights are based on a summary provided by the staff of the Republican majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. As of last week, Democratic and Republican leaders said the core of the bill was largely complete, with the exception of special education funding. Some of the agreements, however, had not been ratified by the full House-Senate conference committee working on the bill.
The bill would require annual, statewide reading and mathematics assessments in grades 3-8 by the 2005-06 school year, and would provide some money to help states develop those tests. It also would require that a sample of 4th and 8th graders in each state participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and math every other year to verify the state's results on its own tests. Besides showing overall student achievement, statewide test data would be broken down and reported by race, income, and other categories to measure gaps between different subgroups.
States would be required to reach 100 percent academic proficiency, as defined by each state, within 12 years. Each state would be required to raise the level of proficiency gradually, but in equal increments over time, leading to 100 percent once every three years. A "safe harbor" would be provided for schools that could demonstrate that students in a particular subgroup were making significant progress toward proficiency, but had not technically met "adequate yearly progress" demands.
If a school failed to make adequate progress for two consecutive years, students would be given public school choice and the school would receive technical assistance. After the third year, the school would be required to offer supplemental education services chosen by students' parents, including private tutoring. After five years, schools would be identified for reconstitution.
The bill would consolidate several bilingual education programs into one flexible initiative. It would require that students with limited proficiency in English be tested in reading and language arts in English after they had attended school in the United States for three consecutive years, though it would allow two-year waivers on a case-by-case basis. The bill would end the current requirement that a minimum of 75 percent of federal bilingual education aid be spent on programs that use a child's native language for instruction.
The bill would consolidate the current class-size-reduction and Eisenhower professional-development programs into a single, flexible program for improving teacher quality. It would require each state to submit a plan to ensure that all teachers in the state's public schools were "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-06 school year.
Vol. 21, Issue 15, Page 27