WASHINGTON A bipartisan bill to reform No Child Left Behind was introduced to the Senate last week, with several provisions introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Some of Bennets proposals included in the bill are provisions that would ensure that states can authorize teacher and principal training programs in exchange for setting up performance agreements regarding teacher effectiveness, according to the senators office. Some of these provisions are similar to the changes in teacher-preparation programs that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Bennet announced last month.
In addition, other proposals from Bennet included in the bill would allow school districts to extend the length of the school day and would facilitate research about education issues for the Department of Education.
The bill is an effort from Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., to improve the school system while reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This act was last reauthorized by Congress as No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, in 2002. Bennet was a member of the negotiations for the new bill.
States like Colorado that have been on the cutting edge of reform have been hampered by NCLB, and I will fight to keep the provisions in this new law that support Colorado in continuing to implement their state-of-the-art accountability and growth model system rather than getting in the way, Bennet said.
He is the former superintendent of the Denver public school system.
The bill already has faced criticism from several organizations. A letter signed by the National Council of La Raza, the Education Trust, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Center for American Progress Action Fund expressed concern regarding accountability.
States would not have to set measurable achievement and progress targets or even graduation rate goals, said the letter, addressed to Harkin and Enzi. Congress, parents, taxpayers would have no meaningful mechanism by which to hold schools, districts or states accountable for improving outcomes at the pace our economy demands.
Meanwhile, last week, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced a bill co-sponsored by Bennet called the Growth to Excellence Act. That bill, also intended to improve NCLB, was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Bennet is a member of the committee, while Harkin is chairman and Enzi is the ranking member.
Udall said he saw Harkin and Enzis proposal as an opportunity to enable schools across the United States to follow Colorados growth model.
This reform is built on legislation Ive been working on since I was in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Im proud that it will be a part of the discussion as the Senate works to improve NCLB over the coming months, Udall said.
Rocío González is an intern for The Durango Herald and a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.