If you haven’t heard, Senators Harkin and Enzi introduced a substitute version of their ESEA Reauthorization bill today. While I’m disheartened and disappointed by these changes, Secretary Duncan released a more muted statement on the new bill. As a public service, Quick and the Ed is going to break down the key changes so you don’t have to re-read the 860-page bill again (see our chart below, or PDF here). It’s worth nothing that each of these changes is in direct response to the letter advocacy groups for teachers, principals, school administrators, and school boards sent to the Senators yesterday, as well as concerns from other key interest groups.
- Teacher and Principal Evaluation: States are not required to develop and adopt new teacher and principal evaluations based in part on student achievement, or to distribute teachers equitably among high-poverty and high-minority schools based on their effectiveness. Both become optional. Instead teachers will be distributed equally on the basis of: 1) whether they are highly qualified; 2) whether they are inexperienced; 3) whether they completed a teacher preparation program; and/or 4) whether they are certified in the subjects/grades they teach.
- Growth Models: Adequate student growth is no longer defined. Originally, for a student who was not on track to be college and career ready, adequate growth would represent a trajectory where that student would be “on track” in 3 years. In the substitute bill, states can determine the number of years students have to reach the “on track” level. Similarly, for students that are “on track” already, adequate growth would no longer be equal to 1 year’s worth of progress; rather, states would determine how much progress is needed to continue to make academic growth.
- Turnaround Models: The turnaround models chosen by Persistently Low Achieving schools de-emphasize firing the school’s principal. In both the “Transformation” and “Turnaround” model, a state could apply to the Department of Education to waive the requirement to fire the principals at a Persistently Low-Achieving school. States could also apply for more discretion in the composition of school turnaround teams under the “Strategic Staffing” model. The Transformation model was tweaked further so that districts could continue to play the Dance of the Lemons. Hiring of teachers at the Transformation school must still be by mutual consent, but any ineffective teachers that were displaced at the school could be forced upon other schools in the district. It’s worth noting that the Council of Chief State School Officers shared these concerns about the turnaround strategies and growth model provisions..
Essentially, the only point on which the Senators did not capitulate to the demands of the advocacy groups was around assessments, where they asked for less emphasis on annual testing via one high-stakes assessment. Of course, the bill already included language that allowed states to incorporate summative and formative tests into their accountability system, so this concern had already been partially addressed. Stay tuned for our continuing coverage of Harkin-Enzi 2.0.