Harkin ESEA Draft Draws Fire From Advocates
Concern voiced on accountability for long-ignored student groups
Civil rights groups and advocates for students with disabilities are stung by what they view as a watered-down commitment to such students in the proposed overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act due to be taken up by the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee this week.
Although changes are expected to be made to the draft put forth last week by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the committee’s chairman, advocates are angry that the measure would scrap a requirement that states be held accountable for meeting specific student-achievement goals, including for long-ignored student populations, such as racial minorities, students in special education, and English-language learners. The goals, known as adequate yearly progress, or AYP, are a hallmark of the ESEA’s current version, the No Child Left Behind Act, which became law in 2002.
“It is deeply disappointing that a Republican president could be more forceful on gap-closing than is the Democratic chairman of the help Committee,” Amy Wilkins, the vice president for government affairs and communications at the Education Trust, a Washington advocacy group for poor and minority children, said in a reference to President George W. Bush, who championed the NCLB law. “There’s some good stuff in [the draft]. But it’s undercut by the lack of goals....
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