WASHINGTON--Chairman Tom Harkin released the following statement after the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee today approved Harkin's Strengthening America's Schools Act (SASA), a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is long overdue. As a result of Congress’ delay, 37 states—plus the District of Columbia—have received waivers from No Child Left Behind requirements, issued by the Secretary of Education. While these waivers have granted states necessary flexibility, they are no substitute for a new law.
“I am pleased that the HELP Committee has passed this critical bill to replace the failed tenets of NCLB and give states the flexibility to institute their own college- and career-ready standards, performance targets, academic assessments, and accountability models that will improve our schools. This bill builds on the important progress that states have already made under NCLB waivers, while strengthening federal and state partnerships to achieve these goals. We have a responsibility to ensure that all of our students are educated to high standards, and to tackle achievement gaps that leave disadvantaged students less prepared for post-secondary education and their careers.
“As we move forward, I hope that our Republican colleagues in both the Senate and House will work with us to finally accomplish a reauthorization of ESEA, and give states, schools, teachers, and students the certainty, support, and flexibility they need to improve our schools."
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act seeks to ensure that all of America’s children graduate college- and career-ready. No Child Left Behind provided important information about student performance and accountability, but it also unintentionally led to lower standards, a narrowing of curriculum and a “one-size-fits-all” approach to school improvement. The Strengthening America’s Schools Act would replace NCLB with a law that is fair to students and teachers, and provides states and districts with the certainty, support, and freedom they need to prepare all children for success in the 21st century.
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act provides a framework to have all children graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and a career. It does this by:
No Child Left Behind presented a host of problems for schools, students, and educators, including: setting inflexible benchmarks without taking into consideration the different needs of schools and without recognizing student progress; mandating the same federal sanctions for all schools that created a pressure to “teach to the test;” requiring states and schools to adhere to prescriptive, Washington-generated accountability models; and forcing school districts to spend money on activities that did not make sense for all students or schools.
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act will establish a partnership of “shared responsibility” that recognizes the flexibility that states and districts need to implement their own accountability systems and interventions to improve schools, and enables states and districts to focus on turning around chronically struggling schools and those with significant achievement gaps.
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013will:
Focus greater attention on children in their early years to ensure they come to school ready to learn by:
Encourage equity through greater transparency and fair distribution of resources by:
Sustain current state reform efforts and provide them the flexibility they need to improve their schools:
Support great teachers and principals and ensure that all children receive the best instruction, by: