In a statement delivered to key leaders on Capitol Hill today, the Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) gave mixed reviews to bills filed by House Education and Workforce Committee chair Rep. John Kline to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Kline has recently released the final two pieces of his reform agenda designed to replace the widely criticized and decade-old No Child Left Behind federal education law, writes Ben Wolfgang at the Washington Times.
The FEA's work is based on the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, now signed by 156 national organizations, which sets criteria for overhauling the controversial law.
And now the FEA has publicly voiced its support in principle for the bill, which calls on states to develop their own teacher evaluation systems, which must include assessments of instructors' classroom leadership and their students' academic achievement, within three years. But not without its own reservations.
The FEA statement said:
"We applaud some of the steps Mr. Kline proposes in the âStudent Success Act' and the âEncouraging Innovation and Successful Teachers Act. However, we have serious concerns with other important parts of his legislation.
"Rep. Kline's bill largely perpetuates the over-reliance on testing. It would remove science testing as a mandate. But the bill negates this modest reduction by requiring the use of test scores to judge all teachers. This will greatly increase the amount of testing and exacerbate the major problem of teaching to the test.
"Rep. Kline proposes what could become an unfunded mandate for states to create extensive evaluation systems, and requires significant use of student standardized test scores in that system. There is a lack of research on the positive results, cost or educational efficacy of such evaluation systems."
The FEA has criticized Kline's bill for being insufficiently specific over its plans to improve schools where students still underachieve.
"The new ESEA should require state and local plans to ensure that the lowest performing schools engage in an improvement process rooted in real evidence of how to turn schools around," the groups wrote.
"Turnaround plans themselves should be flexibly adapted to the needs, strengths and conditions of each school. They would begin with a comprehensive evaluation of a school. District and school would then craft a strategic plan that addresses core elements of successful schools. These include effective leadership, strong curriculum and instruction, collaborative professional development, a safe and supportive school environment, and active parent, caregiver and community involvement."
In summary, the FEA has called for Kline to revise the proposed bill:
"Such a bill can be truly bipartisan in that it will reduce overly intrusive federal requirements on assessment and accountability, but provide meaningful guidelines and requirements for improvement across the range of key school areas.
"It will satisfy civil rights calls to focus on equity while removing requirements that have proven to hinder, not help, school improvement, such as excessive testing and unreasonable accountability. It will genuinely strengthen local authority while ensuring states and localities do not abrogate their responsibilities for equity and quality in education."