Alexander-Murray: This Is What Compromise Looks Like, in a Single Table

I’m back from a week’s vacation and pleased to find that ESEA reauthorization is still (if just barely) alive. The release of a compromise bill from Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and ranking member Patty Murray gives me an excuse to bring back my beloved color-coded ESEA table.

The last time we checked, when Chairman Alexander published his discussion draft, it looked like this:

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Click to enlarge

After negotiating with Senator Murray, it now looks like this (items that moved are in bold):

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Click to enlarge

(These were in the Alexander discussion draft too; I had them in the wrong column last time. My apologies.
** The School Improvement Grants program is officially gone, though the bill [like Alexander’s discussion draft] does include a large state set-aside for school “interventions and supports.”

So what’s the big news? First, federally mandated teacher evaluations are dead as a doorknob, as are requirements that states adopt a particular type of standard (read: Common Core). That’s good news on both fronts, as Uncle Sam has become a monkey on the backs of these reforms. Second, as most of us predicted, annual tests are here to stay. (The House Republicans’ bill keeps them, too.) Third, Senator Murray rescued the “maintenance of effort” requirement, though Republicans succeeded in adding some flexibility for states and districts. She also kept a handful of competitive grant programs alive, including one for magnet schools.

The most significant changes relate to state accountability systems. To be sure, the language in the Alexander-Murray compromise is much less prescriptive than No Child Left Behind’s “adequate yearly progress” concoction. But it’s fairly prescriptive nonetheless, requiring the setting of annual “achievement” goals that I predict will lead us into another box canyon of utopian expectations that few schools will meet. (More on that in another post.)

And though it’s not in my table (because it’s not in current policy), Title I “portability” is gone. No surprise there.

For more details, see this excellent Education Week overview. And stay tuned, because the HELP Committee will mark up the bill tomorrow.

—Mike Petrilli

This post originally appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog



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