Congress Makes Progress on NCLB Overhaul

After countless delays, the effort to revise the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) is gaining traction on Capitol Hill this week as a key Senate committee begins markup of a bipartisan bill. The bill, introduced last week by Senators Tom Harkin  (D-Iowa) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would give states more flexibility on how to tailor their education programs.

NCLB is the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), enacted in 2002. The law has been overdue for revision, as a growing consensus emerged that its punitive provisions are hurting rather than helping the effort to improve public education in the United States.

The National Education Association (NEA) praised both senators for conducting bipartisan and flexible negotiations but cautioned that, because the stakes for the nations schools are so high, lawmakers must take the time to make sure reauthorization is done right.

President Obama met with Senator Tom Harkin (left) and Senator Mike Enzi (right) earlier this year to discuss ESEA/NCLB.

One key change to the initial draft of the bill was welcomed. The version released last week mandated school districts to implement teacher evaluation systems based in part on student performance. By Monday, Harkin and Enzi had removed that provision. In the new draft, these evaluations would apply only to districts that participate in the voluntary Teacher Incentive Fund.

Although the NEA supports strong evaluation systems, it has long opposed the creation of a national, federally mandated evaluation system, deeming it to be unfair, inaccurate and unworkable.

“We have offered a new framework that local school districts can use for teacher evaluations,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel explained. “As a result, we are pleased to see that the latest version of the bill recognizes that the federal government’s role is limited in this arena.”

Van Roekel said educators across the country will continue to voice their opinions on how to improve the legislation on a variety of fronts as it makes it way through Congress.

“We remain committed to advocating that school accountability systems contain true multiple measures of performance,” Van Roekel said, “and embrace promising, locally-developed ideas to turn around struggling schools and allow educators to have a real voice in reform.”

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will take up the bill on Wednesday.


Tell your Senators today to craft a bill that will work for students in your schools and classrooms.