Accountability

Administration Unveils ESEA Reauthorization Blueprint

Aims to Address Concerns About NCLB Inflexibility, Look Beyond Test Scores
By Alyson Klein & Michele McNeil — March 16, 2010 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has released broad principles for renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that seek to address perennial complaints that the law’s current version—the No Child Left Behind Act—is inflexible and focuses too narrowly on student test scores to get a picture of a school’s achievement.

The Obama administration’s long-anticipated blueprint for overhauling the Bush-era NCLB law seeks to maintain the current statute’s focus on disaggregating data and improving the performance of particular student groups, such as students in special education.

The administration is planning to look beyond the current law’s focus on test scores in assessing schools’ performance and also report on factors such as attendance, course completion, and school climate. It would also permit states to expand the subjects tested beyond reading and mathematics.

“We’ve got to get accountability right this time so it actually drives improvement in student achievement,” Mr. Duncan said in a March 12 conference call with reporters. He added there were three overarching goals with the newly released blueprint: setting a high bar for students and schools, rewarding excellence and success, and maintaining local control and flexibility.

The looming 2014 deadline under NCLB—the date by which all students are supposed to be proficient in reading and math—would essentially go away under the department’s blueprint. States instead would be given time to adopt new college- and career-ready standards, and they would set performance targets against those new standards, said Carmel Martin, the department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development. But no new absolute deadline would be established, she said.

The department said it will work with Congress during the transition period, as the original 2014 deadline approaches and before states are able to adopt college- and career-ready standards. It will also work with Congress to come up with a new name for this next edition of the ESEA, to replace the No Child Left Behind label.

Annual Assessments

One thing that would carry over from the NCLB era, however, is the yearly schedule for assessing students, Ms. Martin said in the conference call.

The Department of Education released the outline of the ESEA plan to news organizations on March 12 and provided additional details in the telephone briefing with reporters.

To address complaints that the NCLB law doesn’t make a clear distinction between schools that are consistently struggling to raise the achievement of all their students and schools that are having trouble only with particular student populations, the Obama administration is seeking to differentiate interventions for schools that have varying difficulty in meeting the law’s goals.

The new vision for ESEA would provide local and state flexibility in determining what interventions were necessary in most schools. And broadly, the department says there would be consequences and rewards for districts and states as well as schools.

But the bottom 5 percent of schools would be forced to use the department’s four turnaround models that now govern the Title I School Improvement Grant program. The next-lowest 5 percent would be on a “warning” list and be required to take action using research-based interventions, although the department would not mandate one of the four turnaround models.

In addition, states would be required to identify schools with the greatest achievement gaps and take aggressive action to fix the problem. If, within three years, those students failed to improve, the department would require the state to take over the school’s Title I spending.

The proposal to set up different tiers of sanctions was widely anticipated by most observers. The Education Department already allows some states to use such a system through a “differentiated consequences” pilot project, created in 2008 under Secretary Duncan’s predecessor, Margaret Spellings.

No Mandatory SES

But, in an important policy shift, schools that failed to meet achievement targets would not be mandated to provide school choice or supplemental educational services, or SES.

Mr. Duncan had already signaled that the SES and public-school-choice provisions under NCLB were not acceptable to him. Last April, in light of the $10 billion in additional Title I money flowing to states and school districts from the federal economic-stimulus package, he invited states to apply for waivers to make those provisions more flexible. So far, the department has granted 43 waivers.

The renewal plan seeks to give teachers a voice in school improvement efforts by using still-to-be-specified surveys about working conditions and school climate.

And it would seek to strengthen provisions in current law that require states to make sure their most effective teachers are distributed equitably among high- and low-poverty schools, such as by providing more reporting and transparency.

The blueprint also calls for the federal government to “encourage funding equity,” such as by requiring schools and districts to more clearly show how resources are being distributed among high- and low-poverty schools.

Under the blueprint, states would be able to measure individual students’ academic growth, rather than comparing different cohorts of students with each other, as under current law.

The Education Department already has a pilot program authorizing the use of such “growth models” that was put in place in 2005 and opened up to all 50 states in 2007.

The ESEA was first enacted in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of a package of programs aimed at combating poverty, known as the “Great Society.” The NCLB law was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, after winning overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.

Reauthorization has been pending since 2007. That year, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced a discussion draft that failed to garner sufficient support in Congress.

The Obama administration had made some of its reauthorization priorities clear in advance of the blueprint’s release.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 17, 2010 edition of Education Week as Administration Unveils ESEA Reauthorization Blueprint

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Accountability Opinion The Pandemic Disrupted Testing. States Should Seize Untapped Accountability Opportunities
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, states have more freedom to revamp their testing and accountability systems than they did under NCLB.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Accountability States Make It Hard to Tell How Much Schools Are Spending, Report Says
The vast majority of states aren't publishing spending data in a visually appealing or comprehensive way, according to EdTrust.
3 min read
Group of people with large pens, coins, calculator, clip board, magnifying glass and studying numbers, charts and receipts.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Accountability Did Washington D.C.'s Education Overhaul Help Black Children? This Study Says Yes
Researchers said the district's "market-based" reforms accelerated achievement versus other districts and states.
5 min read
Accountability Opinion What Next-Gen Accountability Can Learn From No Child Left Behind
As we ponder what's next for accountability and assessment, we’d benefit from checking the rearview mirror more attentively and more often.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty