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Teachers Concerned No Child Left Behind Bills Will Hurt Quality Curriculum

by Kelly Petty, published
credit: Wikimedia Commons

credit: Wikimedia Commons

States could face a strict timeline to implement new standards if either of the two No Child Left Behind re-authorization bills currently being considered in Congress become law.

Bills introduced in the House and the Senate make it a priority for states to implement the new NCLB legislation -- if passed this year -- within 1 to 2 years after congressional approval. With states currently adopting Common Core and College and Career Readiness measures, rolling out a whole new set of federal regulations could have serious implications for districts to comply within the given time frame.

Funding provisions for the two different bills offer a timeline for public schools to implement the measures by 2015.

Between both bills, the two-year time frame coincides with the same time that assessments would be conducted for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Currently, teachers across the nation are spending the summer preparing to unveil the more challenging curriculum this fall.

However, states that adopted Common Core did so by filing NCLB waivers and accepting federally-mandated evaluations of teachers and principals against student achievement.

Responding to concerns that the Education Department is pushing reforms too fast, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a memo to state superintendents calling for requests to delay the deadline for faculty and administration penalties for one year to 2016-2017.

Duncan also permitted a one-year waiver to allow students to only take one end-of-year test during the transition in an effort to offset “double testing.”

“This decision ensures that the roll out of new, higher, state-selected standards will continue on pace, but that states that need it will have some flexibility in when they begin using student growth data for high-stakes decisions,” he said.

Despite the generous offer, the waivers only give states very little time to work with between addressing staff assessments and adopting the new legislation. Furthermore, both bills require a major transformation of No Child Left Behind, shifting the nation’s education priorities.

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D), would mandate that states develop college and career ready content criteria for math, reading, or language arts by December 31, 2014, as well as develop academic standards for the same subjects by the 2015-2016 school year.

During that same school year, states would also be tasked with creating various assessment tests in math, science, language arts, or reading for grades 3 to 12 to monitor and measure academic progress in these subjects.

The bill also redefines schools that fail academic yearly progress (AYP) as “focus” and “priority” schools. Focus schools — those that are in the lowest 10 percent of achievement — and priority schools — those that are in the lowest five percent of achievement or have a graduation rate of 60 percent — will be given a three-year period to make improvements before reevaluation.

Naturally, all of these accountability measures would have to be submitted for review and approval by the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to make sure states are following standards and goals set forth by the federal government.

On the other hand, the Student Success Act, sponsored by House Republican Todd Rokita (R-IN), would wipe out nearly every federally-mandated accountability measure, assessment, or demographic reporting requirement, as well as greatly diminish the Education Department's role in dictating how states and school districts develop academic models.

States and local school districts have two years from the passage of the bill to work with their educational agencies to develop standardized tests, content models, and accountability assessments for teachers and administrators without mandates to adhere to federal initiatives like college and career readiness.

Unlike the Democrat-sponsored Senate bill, the House bill also puts heavy emphasis on allowing states to develop teacher evaluations and performance-based assessments to measure student academic achievement and make improvements to under-performing schools.

Recent congressional debates indicate that accountability and standards assessments won’t necessarily go away. However, school officials are already expressing concerns over whether they can keep up with changes while maintaining quality curriculum.

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