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US House Moves on ESEA Reform

April 11, 2012

In February, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), approved two bills to reform the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently referred to as No Child Left Behind. Both bills, the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act, were approved on a straight party line vote (23 to 16).

According to the Republican majority, the Student Success Act will replace the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metric with state-determined accountability systems; eliminate federally-mandated interventions and allow states and school districts flexibility to develop and implement appropriate school improvement strategies; repeal federal "Highly Qualified Teacher" mandates; and keep the requirement that states and school districts issue and distribute annual report cards, including disaggregated data on student achievement and high school graduation rates.

The Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will require states and school districts to develop teacher evaluation systems; support more magnet and charter schools options; and consolidate existing K-12 education programs into a new Local Academic Flexible Grant, providing funding to states and school districts to support local priorities improving student achievement.

The Democrats uniformly oppose the bills because they dismantle accountability for high state standards, including science standards and assessments, teacher quality, student achievement, particularly for high need and disadvantaged students, and for taxpayers.

The Museum of Science's National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) and the Association of Science & Technology Centers (ASTC), however, have successfully made the case that community-based organizations, such as science centers, should be eligible to compete for federal funds to provide teacher professional development in both the House and Senate versions of ESEA reform.

For these bills to become law, the House and Senate must work in conference to develop a compromise bill, which then must pass each chamber before it is sent to President Obama for his signature and enactment. Historically, education reform has proceeded in a bipartisan fashion, so it is unlikely these efforts will continue to move forward. But this does lay important groundwork for the next Congress. The NCTL and ASTC will continue to work for the inclusion of STEM education and the eligibility of science museums in the final legislation.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500