America is about to leave behind former President George Bush’s landmark No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education program.
The House of Representatives voted 359 to 64 last week for the new “Every Student Succeeds Act.” The Senate is expected to vote this week. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
This could be good news for Mississippi.
The bill provides for less federal control, more state flexibility, and, apparently, still leaves the NCLB-originated money spigots open.
“It seems to be a move in the right direction,” said long-time public education champion Cecil Brown, the newly elected Central District Public Service Commissioner. “A reduction in the number of tests and giving states more flexibility are changes that were needed.”
The bill removes the punitive requirement for schools to get all children reading at grade level or face consequences, diminishes the power of the Secretary of Education, and stops the federal government from using money and influence to push national standards like Common Core.
“For more than a decade, Washington has been micromanaging our classrooms,” House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) told The Hill publication.
“No Child Left Behind was based on good intentions. But it was also based on the flawed premise that Washington knows what students need to succeed in school.”
Under the new bill, the US Department of Education would be limited to verifying that states’ school accountability plans comply with the law. States would be responsible for developing plans to improve the lowest-achieving five percent of schools, along with schools where identified groups of students consistently under-perform.
Annual tests for reading and math testing for students in grades three through eight would remain in place. But, high school students would only have to undergo the testing once and science tests would be given three times between grades three and 12.
Brown’s hope is that the new flexibility allowed to states will result in progress for Mississippi children.
“The problem we have had is that Mississippi leaders often do not look at what works in other states unless what those states are doing aligns with those leaders’ philosophies,” said the former chairman of the Mississippi House’s Education Committee.
“Conservatives sand progressives are both guilty. There is more research and information about what works and doesn’t work in the field of education than any other area of human endeavor. We need to pay attention to the research from conservative and liberal groups.
“Conservatives need to quit pointing fingers at poor districts and admit that at least a part of the problem in achievement gaps comes from family history and the social environment in which these kids are raised. Then we need to figure out how to help overcome those hurdles. Progressives need to quit arguing that conservatives are anti-education and listen to what conservative concerns and suggestions actually are.”
We’ll see soon how our legislators react. The Legislature reconvenes in less than a month.
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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