The Student Success Act: Passed in House of Representatives

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As many of you may know, there is broad, bipartisan agreement that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) needs to be overhauled, if not entirely replaced. For those of you who have not yet heard, though, The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) is to help do this, by reducing “the federal footprint and restor[ing] local control, while empowering parents and education leaders to hold schools accountable for effectively teaching students” within their states.

This represents the federal government’s most serious attempt to overhaul NCLB yet, since it was last rewritten in 2001. Although this Act was initially pulled from the floor losing GOP support last spring, near the end of this past summer the House passed the Act (see more information here).

As per another post here, this has all come about given “[t]he federal government’s involvement in local K-12 schools is at an all-time high.” For example, in 2013, the federal government spent nearly $35 billion on K-12 education, under the condition that states and districts, for example, adopt growth or value-added models (VAMs) to hold their teachers accountable for that which they do (or do not do well).

Hence, The Student Success Act is to primarily:

  • Replace the current national accountability scheme based on high stakes tests with state-led accountability systems, returning responsibility for measuring student and school performance to states and school districts.
  • Protect state and local autonomy over decisions in the classroom by preventing the [U.S.] Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, as well as reining in the secretary’s regulatory authority.
  • Strengthen existing efforts to improve student performance among targeted student populations, including English learners and homeless children.
  • Ensure parents continue to have the information they need to hold local schools accountable.

Kudos go out to U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan for pushing the federal government’s role, and more specifically their accountability-based “initiatives,” so far (e.g., via Race to the Top and his NCLB Waiver program). It seems that this finally pushed the House (and Senate) to at least begin to put a stop to their stronger accountability adventures.

Kudos also go out to President Obama for not keeping U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan in check, and also purportedly being “unwilling to work with Congress to change the law” and, instead, implementing the aforementioned NCLB “waiver process that replaces some of the law’s more onerous requirements with new mandates dictated by [Duncan] – compounding the confusion and frustration shared by states and schools.”

This could be a win for educators, and states, across the country, especially as related to our shared interests on this blog: the use of VAMs to hold teachers accountable as per the efforts of most of our far-removed VAM modelers. This is not a win for those who oppose charter schools, however, as within this Act an imperative also exists to “Empower parents with more school choice options by continuing support for magnet schools and expand[ing] charter school opportunities, as well as allow[ing] Title I funds to follow low-income children to the traditional public or charter school of the parent’s choice.”

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) are the two that introduced this act to the House, under the auspices that: “Effective education reform cannot come from the top down – it must be encouraged from the bottom up. Washington bureaucrats will never have the same personal understanding of the diverse needs of students as the teachers, administrators, and parents who spend time with them every day. The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) [therefore] reduces the federal footprint and places control back in the hands of parents and the state and local education leaders who know their children best” (see also more here).

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