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Feeling the Draft: New Iteration of NCLB II in the Works

The House Committee on Education and Labor proposes amendments to the controversial education law.

September 14, 2007

The national debate over reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act kicks into high gear this month as education, business, and advocacy groups scramble to weigh in on the recently released discussion drafts proposing changes to the landmark education legislation.

The drafts, issued in two installments by the House Committee on Education and Labor, propose changes to Title I through Title XI of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, set to expire September 30.

Here's an overview of some of the key changes proposed in the draft prepared by congressmen George Miller, the committee's chair, and Buck McKeon, ranking committee member. (Full text and summary documents are available at the committee's NCLB Web page.)

Adequate Yearly Progress

Although the draft holds firm on the requirement that all students demonstrate proficiency in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year, it expands the means by which states can assess whether schools are making Adequate Yearly Progress toward that goal. Specifically, states could add supplemental indicators of school progress, such as graduation rates, scores on end-of-course exams in college-prep classes, and assessments in history, science, civics and government, and writing. This draft also allows all states that have longitudinal data systems to use a growth model to assess AYP.

Interventions for Low-Performing Schools

Under the Miller-McKean proposal, low-performing schools would be designated as "priority" (those that fail to meet AYP for one or two subgroups) and "high priority" (those in which most or all students are not meeting AYP). Priority schools would choose from among a menu of intervention options but would no longer be required to provide free tutoring and school-transfer options to parents. Schools in both categories would be required to enhance teacher support (professional development and mentoring for new teachers) and to ensure that no student has a novice or out-of-field teacher for two consecutive years (or to publicly report their inability to meet this criteria).

Teacher Distribution, Compensation, and Support

Drawing from several elements of Miller's Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, enacted in 2002, preliminary revisions to NCLB's Title II include new compensation programs for experienced teachers and administrators who transfer into high-need schools, as well as for teachers who become mentors or assume other school-leadership roles.

Highly-qualified-teacher requirements for Title I schools are unchanged, but the current draft beefs up the role of states in addressing the inequitable distribution of inexperienced and underprepared educators. Under this proposal, the U.S. secretary of education would be authorized to withhold Title II funding to states that fail to address the issue of uneven or inequitable distribution of teachers.

Other Key Elements

This draft requires all states to develop longitudinal data systems in four years, creates a single definition for dropouts, establishes a common minimum size for subgroups (thirty students) to be included and counted in NCLB reporting and accountability requirements, and reworks provisions related to English-language learners and students with disabilities.

In a joint letter issued with the draft release, Miller, a Democrat, and McKeon, a Republican, described the recommendations as a work in progress. Judging from early comments from such key players as secretary of education Margaret Spellings and National Education Association president Reg Weaver, there's still a great deal of work ahead before NCLB II becomes law.

Roberta Furger is a contributing writer for Edutopia.

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