Perhaps the best that can be said about H.R.5, the Student Success Act, is that it passed the House yesterday. The bill had been in limbo after being abruptly pulled from the floor of the House in February due to a growing revolt among some GOP lawmakers that the bill to replace the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was not conservative enough. The bill eliminates the notorious accountability system known as adequate yearly progress (AYP) as well as the highly qualified teacher (HTQ) requirements. The bill maintains NCLB’s annual state testing regimen in grades 3–8 in reading and math, but it does allow districts to administer local assessments in lieu of state tests.
Per the bill, states would establish their own accountability systems to measure school quality. The bill also gives states the discretion to develop their own school improvement strategies and to identify which schools should receive such support. In addition, the bill eliminates local maintenance of effort requirements and includes the concept of “portability” that distributes Title I funding on a per pupil basis to whatever school a Title I–eligible student attends. It is these last few provisions that have left Democrats feeling, ironically enough, that the bill is too conservative. Indeed, not a single House Democrat voted for the bill and the White House has threatened to veto the bill unless significant changes are made. Twenty-five Republicans also voted against the bill, but it still squeaked through with a vote of 218–213.
From ASCD’s perspective, H.R.5. would make some worthy updates to existing federal law, such as eliminating AYP and HQT. However, it needs some major revisions when it comes to portability and promoting whole child accountability, among other requirements. Still, with a much more desirable bill progressing with bipartisan support in the Senate (S.1177, the Every Child Achieves Act), it is important for the House to have passed a reauthorization bill so that House and Senate leaders can work on a final compromise bill that will be signed by the president to replace NCLB once and for all. H.R.5 may not be to anyone’s liking, but its passage is a positive step forward in the legislative process.
For more information about ESEA reauthorization and the House and Senate bills, including detailed summaries of their major positions, go to www.ascd.org/esea. To send your senators a message in support of S.1177 go to www.congressweb.com/ASCD/37.