10 Things NCLB/ESEA Supporters Want You to Think About the Student Success Act: A Modification of What Was Issued by House Speaker John Boehner’s Office
Prepared by Sandra Stotsky
February 23, 2015 | View Online
Fictional Purposes: This week, the House is set to vote on the Student Success Act, legislation to replace No Child Left Behind and expand opportunity in education so that every student can get ahead – no matter where they’re from. Read the text here, and a fact sheet from the Education & the Workforce Committee here. This measure contains a number of conservative reforms to reduce the federal footprint, restore local control, and empower parents and local leaders to hold schools accountable.
Actual Purposes: HR 5 deliberately takes away most authority by parents and locally elected school boards, makes departments of education the conduits for federal policy, and does not require states to seek standards that prepare students for a STEM career.
FICTION 1. The bill replaces No Child Left Behind with conservative reforms to restore local control and stop top-down education mandates. In the absence of congressional action, the Secretary of Education has been using waivers and pet programs to dictate national education policies and increase the federal foothold in the classroom. The Student Success Act will put a stop to this.
FACT: The bill removes almost all acts of local control, including what is on the report card local schools give local parents. It doesn’t empower parents or local school boards at all. It doesn’t allow any school district to opt out of a state’s assessment system.
FICTION 2. The bill replaces the current national accountability testing scheme. The Student Success Act will establish a state-led accountability system, returning responsibility for measuring performance to states and school districts.
FACT: This state-led system will be identical from state to state and determined by the US ED, because states have to use US ED-approved standards, tests, and other tools IF THEY WANT TITLE I MONEY. It doesn’t give states or local school districts any options in the grades and subjects they want tested, even though there is no clear case to be made for the benefits of annual testing in all major subjects, for any students but especially for low-income students.
FICTION 3. The bill eliminates dozens of federal programs and downsizes the education bureaucracy. All told, the Student Success Act will eliminate more than 65 existing federal programs that have been declared duplicative, ineffective, or were never funded. It also requires the Secretary of Education to take steps to reduce the department’s workforce.
FACT: It may well eliminate 65 existing programs, but it won’t give a block grant to the states to let them decide how to use their own Title I money.
FICTION 4. The bill establishes funding flexibility for local school districts. The Student Success Act replaces the current maze of programs with a Local Academic Flexible Grant, which allows school leaders to dedicate funding where it’s needed most rather than having these decisions dictated by federal bureaucrats.
FACT: The bill does not specify one single kind of activity or program that local schools can use Title I money for if they so choose. They can’t even design their own report cards.
FICTION 5. The bill expands school choice and empowers parents. The Student Success Act supports magnet schools, expands high-quality charter schools, and allows Title I funds to follow low-income children to the public or charter school of the parent’s choosing.
FACT: Federal mandates attached to Title I also follow the child—and probably by extension the rest of the students in the destination school—so that the child ends up with NO choice in curriculum, instruction, or standards. Whatever the state DoE has been approved for by the US ED is what the vouchered child will have in the new school, no matter what else the parent wants.
FICTION 6. The bill prevents the feds from imposing common standards. The Student Success Act protects state and local autonomy over decisions by preventing the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments.
FACT: The bill mandates that state DoE’s submit their plans for standards to the US ED, where they will be approved BY US ED-APPOINTED REVIEWERS. The PLANS FOR STATE STANDARDS will all look suspiciously like Common Core because the Common Core-based tests are ready to use and are being used. The bill also mandates who will review these state “plans” and not one academic expert from higher education in the state is to be used.
FICTION 7. The bill repeals federal requirements for teacher quality. The Student Success Act supports local and state efforts to recruit and retain the best teachers.
FACT: In one of the most blatant acts of dishonesty, the bill eliminates the NCLB stress on teachers demonstrating mastery of the subject content they teach (the only research evidence we have for teacher effectiveness), and simply says they must be “licensed.” Most licensure tests for K-8 are at the middle school level and demonstrate no mastery of subject content at all. This is a huge disaster for low-income kids. They will be taught by minimally competent teachers, as will other children. But they will not have parents who can compensate for minimally-knowledgeable teachers. Removal of “licensed” would be consistent with the belief that the federal government should not dictate anything with respect to teacher qualifications.
8. FICTION: The bill supports private sector initiatives. The Student Success Act puts aside resources to support state and local programs that operate outside of traditional public school systems, providing a much-needed infusion of private sector innovation.
FACT. Private schools must admit vouchered children who apply and provide them with the “services” they would get in public schools. Private schools are to lose their autonomy, deliberately. There is no language preventing federal mandates from following Title I money.
9. FICTION: The bill boosts transparency and accountability for the Department of Education. The Student Success Act prevents the Secretary of Education from creating additional burdens on states and districts, and outlines the specific steps the Secretary must take when issuing new regulations so as to maximize public scrutiny.
FACT: There will be no accountability by the states or the federal government for the academic competence of Title I teachers and aides. That is how 90% of Title I money is used.
FICTION 10. The bill empowers parents and taxpayers with meaningful information they can use to hold their schools accountable and ensure that every dollar spent makes a direct and lasting impact for students.