Fixing No Child Left Behind

Fixing No Child Left Behind to give states and local districts greater flexibility…

In September, I joined several Republican senators in introducing a series of education bills to fix No Child Left Behind. For the nation’s 100,000 public schools, the legislation would end many of the federal mandates out of Washington and give states and local school districts greater flexibility to:  

  • Improve state standards, testing, and accountability systems to better prepare students for college and careers
  • Improve teacher and principal professional development programs and encourage systems to evaluate performance
  • Consolidate federal education programs to give state and local education leaders more freedom to address local needs
  • Expand the number of charter schools and give parents more choices

These bills are about getting Washington, D.C., out of the business of deciding which schools and teachers are succeeding and which are failing. America needs better state and local report cards, not a national school board.

Click here to read more about these bills.

Fixing No Child Left Behind before Christmas

Congress can and should start now to pass legislation to fix No Child Left Behind. If Congress does not act now, our inaction will transform the U.S. Secretary of Education into a waiver-granting czar over an unworkable law. I supported moving a bill sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) out of committee and to the full Senate for further debate and amendment as a first step in the right direction, although the bill needs to be significantly improved before I can vote for its final passage. While the legislation’s strength is that it begins to move most decisions about whether schools are succeeding or failing out of Washington and back to states and, I am offering several amendments to stop the legislation from creating a national school board that would substitute its judgment for that of governors, state legislators, mayors, local school board members, parents, principals and teachers.

The five amendments I am offering would:

  1. Remove requirements that states identify the bottom 5 percent “achievement gap” schools per year; remove federally mandated interventions to close achievement gaps; remove the definition of achievement gap schools; and prohibit the federal government from regulating or defining achievement gaps. (“Achievement gap” schools are schools in which one group of students does much worse on state tests than other groups of students in the same school.)
  2. Eliminate the federal “highly qualified teacher” definition and remove the federal requirement that all teachers must be highly qualified, but require states to ensure that teachers meet applicable state-certification and licensure requirements.
  3. Remove the federal mandate that state accountability systems measure and report annually on the continuous improvement of all public schools and all students in the state, and prohibit the federal government from regulating and defining “continuous improvement.”
  4. Establish a process that defers to state and local innovation and provide transparent feedback to states on their “Title I Peer Review Process,” and require that the review of state plans be conducted in good faith, in their totality and in deference to state and local judgments, with the goal of promoting state- and local-led innovation. (The “Title I Peer Review Process” is how the U.S. Secretary of Education reviews state plans on how states will comply with federal education law.)
  5. Clarify that states may apply and the U.S. Secretary of Education shall approve waivers from the No Child Left Behind law, allowing the secretary to either immediately approve waivers or conduct a peer-review process that is deferential to state and local judgments; and prohibit the secretary from imposing any requirements to waiver requests not authorized by Congress.

Click here to watch my floor speech on the bill offered by Senators Harkin and Enzi.

Click here to read my op-ed in the New York Times: “A Better Way to Fix No Child Left Behind.”