Lamar Alexander’s NCLB Reauthorization Draft Is Mostly a Reprisal of His (Failed) 2013 Bill

Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has released a new draft proposal to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Called the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015,” it builds off his earlier proposal, the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2013.”

See what he did there? He subbed in “2015” for “2013.”

Or how about the bill’s statement of purpose? In 2015, it was, “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals and other school leaders, States, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.” In 2013, the bill was meant, “to restore freedom to parents, teachers, principals and other school leaders, States, Governors, and local communities so that they can improve their local public schools.”

Spot any differences? No? You get the gist.

Since Alexander is self-plagiarizing his 2013 bill, I feel comfortable repeating what I wrote about it then. Mainly:

Trust (but don’t verify). The most important word in Alexander’s bill is “assurance.” States would have to provide an assurance they’d adopted challenging academic standards and aligned assessments, an assurance that they have an accountability system, an assurance that they will identify schools in need of improvement and provide them some technical assistance, an assurance they will release results to the public, and an assurance they will monitor district implementation. There are no serious standards for these things and, even if there were, there would be no way to verify state assertions….

If you have any illusions about every state being a good actor on school performance, I encourage you to read the latest Education Sector report from John Chubb and Constance Clark. It found a wide and growing achievement gap that varies based on the state in which a student lives. Some states have produced fantastic results for students, but many others lag behind considerably. If you care at all about national education results, you probably don’t want to put all your faith in state assurances.

To be fair, congressional members often re-introduce bills offered in previous sessions. And Alexander’s 2015 bill does include some differences from his 2013 bill, including a “choose-your-own-adventure” option on testing.

But the majority of the text and the key elements in Alexander’s 2015 bill look largely like a reprisal of his 2013 offering. We should treat it as such. That bill received 0 Democratic votes in committee and never made it to the Senate floor. Alexander is talking a big game this time around about a bi-partisan bill, but, so far, it’s hard to find any actual evidence behind that talk.