House Education Chairman’s Foot Dragging Has Real Consequences For Students And Teachers

Our guest blogger is Theodora Chang, Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN)

Yesterday, President Obama called on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind, before the start of the next school year. “I want every child in this country to head back to school in the fall knowing that their education is America’s priority. Let’s seize this education moment. Let’s fix No Child Left Behind.”

However, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) ignored the President’s sense of urgency, saying:

We need to take the time to get this right — we cannot allow an arbitrary timeline to undermine quality reforms that encourage innovation, flexibility, and parental involvement.

The start of the school year is far from an “arbitrary timeline.” Districts and schools plan several months ahead for the next school year, so failure to reauthorize the law will have very real consequences for students and teachers.

The law’s accountability requirements, for example, have not kept pace with local efforts to meet higher achievement standards. McPherson School District in Kansas received a waiver earlier this month from the U.S. Department of Education because it wanted to develop student assessments that were more rigorous than the state assessment required under NCLB.

The law is also overdue for an overhaul of its Title I provisions. New research shows that several pieces of the Title I program are not serving the disadvantaged students they were meant to help. One key example is the “supplemental education services” provision, which mandates tutoring for students in schools that do not make adequate yearly progress. Although hailed as a central tenet of NCLB, studies now show that these tutoring programs are minimally effective, with small improvements for a small fraction of students who receive at least 40 hours of tutoring.

Thoughtful proposals from President Obama and several lawmakers acknowledge the limitations of the current law and identify specific revisions. Many of these ideas were first introduced back in 2010, and students should not have to wait any longer for Congress to act. It’s time to regain momentum and tackle reauthorization now — before the outdated provisions of the law render it entirely arbitrary and obsolete.