WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 28, 2012
Today we will begin consideration of the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act. These pieces of legislation will rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which has been overdue for reauthorization since 2007.
Statistics paint a clear picture of the problems facing schools in America. Fewer than four in 10 fourth- and eighth-grade students are proficient in mathematics, and only 42 percent of high school graduates are ready for college-level math. Only 56 percent of African American students and 52 percent of Hispanic students graduate from high school.
Everyone in this room agrees on the urgent need to act. For more than a year, we have met with education leaders to discuss ways we can revamp current K-12 law and ensure students have a better classroom experience. And through these conversations, we learned of promising developments on the state and local levels.
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna put it best when he said at a recent hearing that the nation is entering an “education renaissance.” He’s right – something special is happening in schools across the country. Leaders in states like Virginia, Arkansas, and Indiana decided our children deserve better than a failing federal system and took action, implementing far-reaching reforms that demand higher academic standards, more parental engagement, and better teachers.
These are models of reform that should be encouraged and expanded. We need to build on this progress – not waste it. That’s what brings us here today to consider the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.
With these proposals, we aim to shrink federal intrusion in classrooms and return responsibility for student achievement to states and school districts. We’ll untie the hands of state and local leaders who are clamoring for the opportunity to change the status quo and revive innovation in our classrooms. And we will free states and school districts from the weight of a broken law to provide every child access to the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.
The policies in these bills weren’t drawn up behind closed doors in Washington. They come from the ideas, accomplishments, and creativity of superintendents, school chiefs, principals, and parents around the country. These proposals have been written with the input of these leaders, who work with our children every day, and reflect our shared goal of providing all children access to a quality education.
The Student Success Act will eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress – an outdated federal metric that fails to provide meaningful feedback to parents and schools – and instead direct states to establish unique accountability systems with tailored academic standards, assessments, and school improvement strategies.
Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle argue that by removing AYP, we will grant states free rein to ignore disadvantaged students. They insist that without federal mandates and prescriptive consequences, education leaders will simply give up on some students.
In reality, states that have implemented their own accountability systems have made impressive gains in narrowing student achievement gaps. Take Florida’s A-Plus program, which improved high school graduation rates for each student subgroup within five years of implementation. States are fighting to raise the bar on student performance, but their efforts are too often weakened by redundant federal requirements. It’s time for Washington to put in place a less intrusive framework that supports continued progress.
While providing states and school districts freedom to forge a new path in K-12 education, the Student Success Act also includes several provisions to protect students. Schools must continue to make and meet high benchmarks for student learning, and states are required implement improvement strategies for low-performing schools. States will also continue to publicly report annual performance in math and reading, and schools must use disaggregated data to identify and close student achievement gaps.
Working in tandem with the Student Success Act, the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act will require states and school districts to use this student performance data and other metrics to better evaluate an educator’s talent and influence in the classroom. Superintendents in Colorado, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are already linking teacher performance to student progress, helping identify the most effective educators and develop more meaningful professional development programs.
As we begin consideration of the two pieces of legislation before us today, I extend my heartfelt appreciation to the state and local education leaders, superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents who have joined in the committee’s ongoing efforts to chart a better path forward for our schools. Their feedback and continued support has been invaluable.
In closing, let me remind my colleagues we have a window of opportunity today. We can advance this legislation to tear down the barriers to progress in our education system, and grant states and school districts more freedom to innovate, create, and take this ‘education renaissance’ to the next level. Or we can let politics stand in the way of advancing the reforms our children need, and sentence schools to more time under an archaic law. I urge my colleagues to join me in taking this next step in the process of ending No Child Left Behind, and ask you to support the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.
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