With a vote of 221 to 207 on July 19, 2013 — with only House Republicans in favor — the U.S. House approved the Student Success Act, the ESEA (NCLB) reauthorization bill that passed out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in June.

While on the House floor, the bill was amended so that states and school districts would not be required to craft teacher evaluation systems based on student outcomes, as the bill’s original language provided. The amended bill would make such evaluations optional for states.

Another amendment clarified that districts can use “multiple measures” in assessing students — not just standardized tests.

TCTA’s input

Prior to the bill going before the House, TCTA’s Washington, D.C., lobbyists distributed a TCTA-drafted memo to the Texas Congressional delegation and House education committee members.

The memo expressed TCTA’s concerns with the original bill’s teacher evaluation provisions, especially a requirement that student achievement data be a significant factor in teacher evaluation.

TCTA also noted that while we appreciated that the bill eliminated the 1 percent cap on the use of special education student test scores on alternative assessments for AYP, we were concerned that the bill didn't address the remaining 2 percent cap on the use of special education test scores on modified assessments for AYP, which we also wanted eliminated.

Although this issue didn't appear to be addressed during the House's deliberation of the bill, an amendment to reinstate the 1 percent cap was made but then withdrawn, with the commitment of the bill's sponsor to address the issue moving forward. Accordingly, this may be an area of further compromise as the bill progresses through the process.

Provisions of the House bill

According to a press release of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which is chaired by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the bill would:

  • Repeal federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” requirements and grant states the flexibility to develop their own teacher evaluation systems to better gauge an educator’s effectiveness, if they so choose.
  • Eliminate AYP and replace it with state-determined accountability systems, returning authority for measuring student performance to states and school districts.
  • Eliminate federally mandated actions and interventions currently required of poor-performing schools, giving states and districts maximum flexibility to develop appropriate school improvement strategies and rewards for their schools.
  • Support “parental choice” by allowing Title I dollars to follow disadvantaged kids, at the state's option, and support opportunities for parents to enroll their children in local magnet schools and charter schools.
  • Maintain the requirement that states and school districts issue and distribute annual report cards, including disaggregated data on student achievement and high school graduation rates, while also streamlining data reporting to ensure meaningful information is easily available to parents and communities.

What’s ahead?

Another ESEA reauthorization bill is being considered in the U.S. Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the bill has passed out of committee and must now be heard by the full Senate.

If passed, the Senate bill and the House bill would have to go to conference committee so that lawmakers could hammer out any differences and pass one ESEA reauthorization bill.