My Observations on the Alexander-Murray ESEA Reauthorization Draft, Part II
I have been reading the Alexander-Murray, Senate reauthorization draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which they have entitled, Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.
The Alexander-Murray draft is scheduled to go before the Senate education committee on April 14, 2015.
Below I add some details from the first 136 pages not included in my first post. These investigations are the result of inquiries from readers. The notes immediately following concern money, state standards, alternate standards, assessments, alternate assessments, and special populations (students with cognitive disabilities; English language learners).
Here are those additional observations:
Page 12: Regarding federal funding, the Alexander-Murray document does not include specific dollar amounts. For funding 1) local education agency grants, 2) state assessments, 3) education of migratory children, 4) prevention and intervention programs for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent, or at-risk, 5) federal activities, and 6) school intervention and support, the Alexander-Murray reauthorization document, Section 1002, states, “…there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 6 2016 through 2021.”
Page 29: State standards are to be “aligned with [college] entrance requirements, without the need for remediation.” This does not mean that students might not require remediation; only that the standards account for what academic exposure is required of students upon acceptance to college. Also, state standards need to be “aligned with relevant State career and technical education standards” and “relevant State early learning guidelines.”
Page 31: Alternate standards for students with the “most significant cognitive disabilities” must align with state standards; “reflect professional judgment of the highest achievement standards attainable by those students,” and “promote access to the general curriculum, consistent with the purposes of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).” Alternate standards must be designated as part of the individual education plan (IEP).
Page 32 also details English language proficiency standards that “ensure proficiency in each of the domains of speaking, listening, reading, and writing” that “address the different proficiency levels of children who are English learners.”
Page 36: The assessments required in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school can “involve multiple up-to-date measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding, which may include measures of student academic growth and may be partially delivered in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks.” Regarding assessing special education students: The assessments must “provide for the appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities (as defined in section 602(3) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and students with a disability who are provided accommodations under another Act, necessary to measure the academic achievement of such children relative to the challenging State academic standards.”
And as to assessing English language learners: The assessments must “be assessed in a valid and reliable manner and provided appropriate accommodations on assessments administered to such students under this paragraph, including, to the extent practicable, assessments in the language and form most likely to yield accurate data on what such students know and can do in academic content areas, until such students have achieved English language proficiency” (pg. 36).
Page 41: As to a state’s alternate assessments for special needs students: The percentage of students assessed using alternative assessments in any subject (math, English language arts/reading, science) cannot exceed 1 percent of all students assessed in the given subject . Use of alternative assessments must be written into a student’s IEP and must have parent approval. Also, the state must “ensure that students who take alternate assessments based on alternate academic achievement standards are not precluded from attempting to complete the requirements for a regular high school diploma” (pg 43).
And now, as to schools determined by states to be in need of remediation:
The Alexander-Murray reauthorization avoids the use of term “failing” to describe schools. Instead, they use the term “identified.” States are to “annually review the performance of each public school in the State towards meeting the challenging State academic standards, and identify the public schools that receive funds under this part and are in need of intervention and support using the method established by the State…” (pg. 132). States are to ensure that districts/other local education agencies (LEAs) with “identified” schools develop and implement intervention plans for such schools. The intervention plan must be communicated to parents, with an invitation for parents to become involved in assisting with the intervention.
The notice to parents could also include “an explanation of the parents’ option to transfer their child to another public school… if applicable” (pg. 139). According to the Alexander-Murray reauthorization draft, the school transfer option is not required.
Falling under the heading of “Public School Choice” (pg. 141):
(A) IN GENERAL.—A local educational agency may provide all students enrolled in an identified school with the option to transfer to another public school served by the local educational agency, unless such an option is prohibited by State law.
(B) PRIORITY.—In providing students the option to transfer to another public school, the local educational agency shall give priority to the lowest achieving children from low-income families, as determined by the local educational agency for the purposes of allocating funds to schools… [Emphasis added.]
The word “may” highlighted above is a key term. Note that the term used is not “must.” Thus, according to the language above, the Alexander-Murray reauthorization does not require states to offer “public school choice” as an option for students to leave an “identified” school.
The bill also allows for districts to provide transportation to the “choice” school from the identified school. Too, once a student transfers to a “choice” school from an indentifed school, that student must be allowed to attend the “choice” school “until the child has completed the highest grade in that school” (pg. 141).
And the limits on the US secretary of education regarding “identified” schools:
(5) PROHIBITIONS ON FEDERAL INTERFERENCE WITH STATE AND LOCAL DECISIONS.—
Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or permit the Secretary to establish any criterion that specifies, defines, or prescribes—
(A) any school intervention or support strategy that States or local educational agencies shall use to assist schools identified as in need of assistance under this section; or
(B) the weight of any indicator or measure that a State shall use to identify schools under subsection (a).
Regarding districts and other LEAs applying to the state for ESEA funds, an interesting stipulation is that districts/LEAs include in their applications information about how they will “sustain successful reforms and practices after the funding period ends” (pg. 150). Another stipulation is that the district/LEA does not use federal funding in lieu of state funding:
Each application [from a district/LEA to the state] shall include, at a minimum, an assurance that each school the local educational agency proposes to serve will receive all of the State and local funds it would have received in the absence of funds received under this paragraph. (pgs. 147, 151)
Concerning state funding to districts/LEAs, similar, “non-supplanting” language is repeated on page 152:
SUPPLEMENT NOT SUPPLANT.—A local educational agency or State shall use Federal funds received under this subsection only to supplement the funds that would, in the absence of such Federal funds, be made available from non-Federal sources for the education of pupils participating in programs funded under this subsection.
Also, the ESEA grantmaking process cannot be used to bypass “Federal, state, or local laws” …”collective bargaining agreements, memoranda of understanding, or other agreements between such employees and their employers” (pg. 152).
Enough for now. My next installment will begin with page 162, Section 1006, “Participation of Children Enrolled in Private Schools.”
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.