Additional Background Information on No Child Left Behind
During the 110th Congress, the NSBA Advocacy staff was very much engaged in discussions with members of Congress and their staffs regarding the challenges and proposed remedies in the implementation of the current No Child Left Behind Act. Additionally, the NSBA Advocacy staff remained responsive to the questions and proposed regulations and guidance released by the U. S. Department of Education. While the discussions were rich and the positions of local school boards well articulated, in the end there simply was not the political will to make the changes to the current law that are very much needed and well-supported by many members of Congress.
This document provides a summary of legislative and regulatory actions taken during the 110th Congress and NSBA’s response. With the support of the state school boards associations and our strong-grassroots advocates across the nation, NSBA is well-positioned to fully represent local school boards with the new President, the new Secretary of Education, and the 111th Congress.
CONGRESSIONAL ACTIONS DURING THE 110th CONGRESS (2007-2008)
House Congressional Education Committee Discussion Draft
During the First Session of the 110th Congress, the leadership of the House Education and Labor Committee, Chairman George Miller (D-CA-7), Ranking Member Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA-25), Chairman Dale Kildee (D-MI-5) of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Ranking Member Michael Castle (R-DE-At-Large) of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, released a staff discussion draft for Titles I-XI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
NSBA submitted formal comments on Title I on September 7, 2007, and submitted formal comments on Titles II-XI on September 14, 2007. NSBA was generally pleased with the direction of the House Discussion Draft which shifted the emphasis of the law away from punitive sanctions and a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and moved toward an approach that recognizes the need for greater flexibility and increased options for states and local school districts. We were particularly pleased that the draft allowed for growth models and indexing systems, multiple measures of academic achievement, and provided several key reforms regarding progress measures for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.
However, NSBA had very serious concerns that the draft added significant process, data collection and reporting requirements which could overload the system. We acknowledged the need for effective planning, adequate data collection, and appropriate reporting. However, we expressed concern that personnel and fiscal resources would be adversely affected with such additional requirements. Our comments addressed over 40 specific areas of the draft that would need to be addressed to our satisfaction in the final House bill in determining our formal position.
Senate Congressional Education Committee Discussion Draft
Additionally, the leadership of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee released a staff discussion draft on selected components of Titles I through VII and Title X. The Senate draft, however, was not considered to be final or complete, as it did not address any of the controversial issues addressed by the House.
NSBA was generally pleased with the draft components released by the Senate. The draft addressed such areas as Migrant Education, Advanced Placement, Math and Science Partnerships, Innovation for Teacher Quality, Education Technology, American History and Civics, Language Instruction for English Language Learners and Immigrant Students, Safe and Drug Free Schools, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Summer Term Education Programs, Public Charter Schools, Voluntary Public School Choice, Magnet Schools, Fund for the Improvement of Education, Rural Education, Indian Education, and Homeless Education. However, the Senate Committee decided to defer release of any additional drafts.
House and Senate Deferral of ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization
Unfortunately, the overall public reaction to the House draft received such negative reactions that the House Education Committee Chairman, George Miller (D-CA-7), decided to defer any legislative activity. Within months, Senate Education Committee Chairman, Edward Kennedy (D-MA), took a similar position. NSBA continued its advocacy efforts, hoping to influence Congress to move forward and complete the reauthorization through intensive calls to action, letters, visits and strong grassroots efforts via the state school boards associations. However, by Spring 2008, both House and Senate committee leadership formally announced that they would not be able to complete their respective reauthorization bills. As a result of the announcements, NSBA communicated with the staffs of House Committee Chairman Miller and Senate Committee Chairman Kennedy and other members of the Congressional education committees, expressing our disappointment with their inability to complete their respective committee bills.
Although disappointed, NSBA continued to advocate for reauthorization in order to secure the much needed relief to states and local school districts from the flawed accountability system contained within the law. More specifically, NSBA lobbied Congress for legislative language that would provide for a temporary suspension of NCLB sanctions if Congress did not reauthorize the law by the end of the 110th Congress. In June 2008, Representative Sam Graves (R-MO-6) introduced H.R. 6239, the NCLB Recess Until Reauthorization Act, which would provide a one-year relief to schools and school districts by suspending the implementation of new sanctions for the 2008-09 school year. In addition to the sponsor, the bill had four co-sponsors: Rep. Sam Graves (MO-6), Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-KS-2), Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry (R-TX-13), Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR-4), and Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN-1). Unfortunately, H.R. 6239 did not come before the full House Committee on Education and Labor before the 110th Congress adjourned.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ACTIONS (2008)
Proposed Regulations and NSBA Response
In April 2008, the U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations implementing Part A of Title I, with formal comments due by June 23, 2008. NSBA submitted comments on the proposed regulations voicing disappointment with the expansion of burdensome requirements and inadequate relief for local schools and school districts. NSBA acknowledged that the regulations addressed some needed concessions to enable states to obtain federal approval to use multiple assessment measures and growth models to track individual progress and determine AYP. However, in relation to all that needs to be done, NSBA felt that the proposed regulations fell short of the accountability system that needs to be in effect, and added a number of requirements that are both questionable and objectionable.
NSBA was pleased that the proposed regulations addressed some of the needed changes regarding the use of growth models, but we have serious concerns over: 1) the proposed additional requirements for schools identified for restructuring; 2) the manner in which the proposed regulations would incorporate graduation rates in the calculations for determining whether or not schools and school districts meet their AYP targets; and 3) the proposed requirements for states to report the most recent available academic achievement results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on the same report card as it reports the results of its state assessments, since it is difficult to compare the NAEP data with individual student and school performance information that could lead to inaccurate assumptions regarding both the school and student performance. In relation to all that needed to be done, NSBA felt that the proposed regulations fell short of the improved accountability system that could have been achieved, and added requirements that are both questionable and objectionable.
On October 28, 2008, Secretary Spellings issued Final Regulations. NSBA remains concerned that the current administration would impose new interpretations and costly requirements on local school districts that create barriers to full attainment of the goal to improve academic achievement for all students enrolled in our public schools.
NSBA is particularly concerned that the new regulations implementing Title I of the NCLB Act will force schools and school districts to re-direct resources to meet new and unnecessary requirements that could be obsolete after the new administration reviews them or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is reauthorized during the 111th Congress. NSBA is seeking additional resources and legislative and regulatory changes that facilitate both effective and efficient implementation by school districts – not more requirements or barriers to achieving the goals of the law. Therefore, NSBA recommended that these regulations be deferred, suspended or modified via Executive Order.
Provisions Adversely Impacting Local School Districts
NSBA remains concerned over additional reporting requirements associated with accountability, graduation rate, supplemental educational services, and public school choice. These additional requirements could force schools and school districts to re-direct their limited resources to meet these new reporting requirements only to have to further re-direct resources when the law is reauthorized. We were hoping for relief not more reporting requirements or barriers to achieving the goals of the law.
More specifically, NSBA is disappointed that the Secretary rejected NSBA’s recommendation to impose sanctions only if the same subgroup failed to meet its goal for two consecutive years in the same subject. As issued in the final regulations, schools and school districts will continue to be subject to sanctions when different subgroups fail to meet their AYP goals in a given subject from year to year. We continue to believe that this interpretation of the law punishes districts and schools that are successful in raising student achievement in a specific subgroup, that these regulations continue the unnecessary mislabeling of schools, and force the reallocation of limited federal funds to address the needs of the “newest” group missing AYP rather than to strategically direct resources based on longer-trend experience.
Additionally, NSBA remains concerned over the new requirements to monitor and report graduation rates. Two options are provided: 1) the four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate; or 2) the Optional Use of an Extended-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate or Rates. This second option will permit schools and school districts to receive credit for students who take longer than four years to graduate with a regular high school diploma. Although the new regulations allow each state to set its own graduation goals and annual progress targets, the reporting requirements associated with graduation rates involves substantial data collection by the schools and school districts. Further, at a time when the focus has been on increasing academic performance by subgroups, the progress schools make on student growth could be negated by the lack of success in meeting aggressive graduation goals, thus creating a less favorable public perception of the substantial achievement that may have been made.
Supplemental Educational Service Providers
With respect to the State approval process for supplemental educational service (SES) providers, we remain concerned that States are not required to consult with their respective local school districts in the approval process for new SES providers. While modifications in the new regulations would permit self-certification by the school rather than to submit unnecessary reports, we believe that the opportunity for school districts to participate in the state-approval process regarding locally-based SES providers would be most meaningful prior to the initial state certification. As contained in the new regulations, local school districts only have an opportunity to provide information for the re-certification of SES-providers based on their direct experiences and formal evaluations.
Title I Set-Asides for Public School Choice and SES
Additionally, we remain concerned that the new regulations establish additional barriers in use of unspent federal funds that are required to be set-aside for public school choice and SES. While the new regulations permit school districts to release the set-aside funds if they meet the criteria established by the new regulations, these regulations also provide for review and certification by the state education agency - with the added requirement that if the criteria for releasing of the funds have not been fully met, the amount of any unauthorized release must be added to the 20% set-aside requirement of the school district in the subsequent year. This new requirement raises several questions regarding state authorities and both state and local school district budgetary guidelines. We are in contact with Department officials for clarification and will share with you any additional information that we are able to secure.
For more information, please see the Issue Brief on Improving the No Child Left Behind Act.