No Child Left Behind legislation seems to be losing steam

by Maria Spencer

In Washington, DC political momentum is critical when attempting to pass a bill through Congress.  The fate of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the latest version of which is the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), in some ways is all about momentum. It seems that this bill has lost some of its steam. This law was supposed to be reauthorized in 2007, but this is 2015! House leadership passed the Student Success Act (SSA) by Rep. John Klien (R-MN), and the ever deliberative Senate passed Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

The prospects of passage seemed good until the end of July when Congress took its annual month-long recess but a full legislative agenda was in play when Congress returned in September. Then the announcement heard all over the political world of the sudden and unexpected retirement of the current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).  This news and the lack of movement on a conference committee has many wondering about the fate of ESEA. While I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the fate of an ESEA reauthorization, I would like to highlight just a few provisions of interest to the tech education community.

For example, the House version of ESEA includes language in support of social emotional learning (SEL), the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Language in the House bill strengthens teacher education and skills in evidence-based strategies to improve academic achievement which includes the social and emotional development needs of students.

Rep. David McKinely (R-WV) also offered an amendment on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education that establishes a state-led definition of “workforce critical subjects” for additional focus under the Title II Teacher Quality grants program.  Also Rep. Loebsack’s (D-IA) amendment was accepted to support the expansion of the use of digital learning through competitive grants to partnerships to implement and evaluate the results of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs at rural schools.

In the Senate, Sen. Orrin Hatch’s amendment establishes a student data privacy committee to study the effectiveness of laws and the effectiveness of student privacy, and parental rights to student information. Also Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) offered an amendment which would require local educational agencies to inform parents of any state or local educational agency policy, procedure, or parental right regarding student participation in any mandated assessments for that school year.

These are just a few examples of the work Congress has done to address many of these important educational issues. We can only hope these issues are seriously considered by Congress if and when they vote on ESEA.

Maria Spencer is ConnectSafely’s Washington, DC-based policy director.