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Senate Education Committee Debates NCLB Overhaul
posted by: Alix | October 20, 2011, 06:23 PM   

On the heels of Senator Harkin's (D-IA) decision to ax the major teacher evaluation provision from his No Child Left Behind overhaul draft, and AAE's statement of support for educator accountability, the debate over a comprehensive bill continues to heat up on Capitol Hill. Currently, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) is in session as they mark-up the current draft of the NCLB reauthorization with the help of the full committee of senators and countless amendments.

Yesterday, the debate got off on a rocky start when Senator Paul (R-KY) threw a procedural wrench in the proceedings, citing an effort to repeal the entire legislation and start from scratch. The bill's sponsors then reached an agreement with Senator Paul in a dramatic exchange on the Senate floor.

Thus far, the Senate education committee has rejected an effort to change assessments and standards for students with special needs. In a move that that would have required schools to cite specifics on how students with disabilities would be assessed, the provision would have brought drastic change and had strong opposition for disability groups."

Further, the committee has also debated student achievement goals and turnaround options for schools and issues involving rural schools and getting teachers into high-need communities.

One of the major changes proposed came from reform ally, Senator Bennet (D-CO) who put forth, but then withdrew, an amendment that would have called for individual states to set performance targets, based on the Obama administration's NCLB waiver program. While the amendment was unsuccessful, insiders predict it will open the door for more controversial discussions on setting state goals.

One detail that has yet to be heavily debated is the tremendous increase in the role of research in federal education programs under the current draft. If implemented, the provisions would shift Department of Education priorities toward research and data collection in existing programs.

Among the key changes: funds devoted to evaluation would increase exponentially; the Institute of Education Sciences would become the U.S. Department of Education's primary research arm; and Investing in Innovation, or i3 would become a permanent program.

Clearly, while extremely important education policy issues are being discussed during these hearings, the final version of a new NCLB law will most likely develop new amendments and drop others during the course of the debate.

Click here for continued coverage and live feed from Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions mark-up.

What would you like to see changed in NCLB?
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