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Senate Democrats seek No Child Left Behind replacement

 

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no child left behindSenate Democrats opened hearings this month to scrap significant portions of the 2001 No Child Left Behind legislation. Led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senators began re-working the legislation that distributed education funding according to academic accountability guidelines. For example, if students didn’t perform at proper grade level standards for math or reading, funding could be cut to schools. Severely failing schools even could be eliminated.

No Child Left Behind actually expired in 2007. Now under criticism for overly severe standards, Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said unworkable parts of the law should be scrapped while state education agencies should be given more leeway in identifying poorly performing schools and how to teach subject matter.

Republicans on the committee led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also criticized the bipartisan No Child legislation spearheaded by President George W. Bush and then-Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass. However, Alexander said the Democrats’ proposals would turn the federal education agency into a “national school board.” Republicans offered an alternative plan shot down by Democrats who were unanimous in opposition. Republicans also have proposed amendments to the Democrats’ bill that would strip the bill of any functionality.

The principle of student accountability continues to be important in the newly proposed legislation just as it was in No Child Left Behind. The Bush era bill had a one size fits all mentality that would change under newly proposed revisions. The Harkin bill continues reading and math testing annually for students in third to eighth grades and once in high school. Students would be tested in science three times between third grade and senior year in high school. Tests could be combined with other measurement tools such as student projects and portfolios to create a more accurate assessment of student progress. Also the testing and assessment of students is a good way of preparing them for their career where testing is a common practice.

Republicans and Democrats continued to spar over how much influence federal standards would have over individual state mandates. No Senate vote is scheduled on the new education proposals. Aides said the earliest any bill would come before the full Senate was in the fall.

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