UPDATE: Approved amendments. The HELP committee is on lunch break, but here’s a rundown of the amendments that were approved this morning during discussion of the ESEA reauthorization:
1. An amendment from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, which exempts Native American teachers from highly-qualified requirements. The amendment, she said, is intended to help ensure that indigenous languages and cultures are maintained without the burden of credentials.
“This amendment recognizes that you’ve got situations where you will not have an elder who has the gift of that language, going off and getting a credential to be a highly qualified teacher,” Murkowski said.
It earned the spoken support of other senators, including Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. Committee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, initially expressed concern, saying the amendment puts highly qualified requirements on a “slippery slope.”
“How broad does it become then?” he asked.
2. An amendment from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that asks for a cross-tabulation of data collected on student achievement. The amendment does not require schools or districts to collect new data, only to look at it differently.
“The amendment will make sure that school improvements and community efforts are driven by data and not be stereotypes,” Murray said.
Harkin and others expressed concerns, but in the end it passed with a voice vote.
3. An amendment from Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., that requires principals in schools identified for turnaround strategies must be experienced or trained in turnaround reforms. The amendment also sets aside funding for training and professional development for these principals.
4. An amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to track students from eighth to ninth grade, in an effort to identify those at-risk of dropping out in high school. The current bill already calls for monitoring and reporting dropouts in every year of high school, from 9th to 12th.
The bill faced some opposition, including from Murkowski, who said she would later introduce her own amendment that would require tracking students in the “early years” of education.
“We want to know what’s happening with our kids, where they’re actually going,” she said. She expressed opposition to Sanders’ bill because, she said, she was concerned about how the data collection would take place.
Pending amendments. The following two amendments were brought up for discussion, but will not be voted on until after lunch:
1. An amendment Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that allows state departments of education to develop their own turnaround models for schools that are identified in the bottom five percent of performance. The amendment doesn’t replace any of the other sixreform strategies outlined in the bill; it adds an additional option.
“It allows a state education agency to come up with another alternative that may be more appropriate for that state,” Alexander said. Other senators debated the necessity for a sixth model of reform and how officials could ensure that this turnaround model would be held to the same standards of rigor.
Alexander and Harkin said they would speak more about this bill during lunch and return for a vote afterward.
2. An amendment from Franken that would establish computer-adaptive tests to replace current written assessments, which he calls “autopsies” of students’ learning.
“We need to allow these computer adaptive tests, so we can accurately measure where each kid is … and allow the teacher to have the results of the tests immediately,” Franken said. “All assessments should be living, breathing things you can use.”
Senators were in the middle of discussion at 12 p.m., when Harkin said it was time for lunch, so they will continue discussion and questions afterward.
Fun amendments. And Paul continued to steal the show when he introduced his amendment to repeal No Child Left Behind. All of it.
“I know you’ll see my proposal as too dramatic, too much …” he began. Well, yes.
Later, when defending his amendment, he said, “But there’s so much wrong with No Child Left Behind, so let’s scrap the whole thing.”
Alexander chimed in and — to much support, we believe — said that “we should fix No Child Left Behind, not end No Child Left Behind.”
Paul called for a roll call vote, and the amendment was defeated 17-3. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who came out against the committee process on Wednesday, voted with Paul. We’re still trying to find who the third aye-sayer was.
Paul also pushed an amendment to make NCLB voluntary.
We’ve also asked for a confirmation from committee officials on the number of amendments considered this morning, as well as the number left this afternoon (and potentially Friday) since Paul announced he has reduced his 74 amendments to “seven or eight.” Penn Hill Group reports that senators worked through 19 amendments today. On Wednesday, we reported that they considered two and a half amendments, approving one, before the meeting was cut short.
The HELP committee will reconvene at 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. or shortly after, depending on the schedule for votes on the Senate floor. They will then reconvene again this afternoon to work through the remaining amendments.
Stay tuned @EducationSector and #ESEA.