U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced the "School Accountability Improvements Act," legislation designed to amend the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in order to address the challenges Alaska faces in complying with NCLB.
"My School Accountability Improvements Act is intended to fix six specific problems in the No Child Left Behind Act that Alaskans have told me are their highest priorities," Murkowski said. "While NCLB has brought many beneficial changes to our schools since 2001better data, more transparency and accountability and increased student proficiencythe law has also created problems in Alaska and across the country. This is not surprising, as it is difficult to write one law that will work well for both New York City and Nuiqsut, Alaska. I am hopeful that my legislation will provide the necessary flexibility that educators and parents throughout Alaska have told me are needed to improve the educational opportunities for all of our children."
NCLB was passed in 2001 to amend the decades-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides the bulk of federal funding to our nation's schools. NCLB requires schools to be accountable for bringing all students to academic proficiency.
Murkowski's bill would:
1. Provide flexibility from the current Highly Qualified Teacher requirements for multi-subject middle and high school teachers in our small, rural schools by allowing instruction to be provided by Highly Qualified teachers by distance delivery if they are assisted by teachers who are Highly Qualified in a different subject. Currently, teachers who teach multiple core academic subjects must be certified, have a major or minor in each subject they teach or pass a test in each subject. It is expensive and time consuming for teachers and nearly impossible for small, rural and remote schools to meet this requirement.
2. Give credit to schools, rather than punish them, if students are improving but have not yet reached the state's proficiency goals by requiring the U.S. Department of Education to allow states to determine schools' success based on individual students' growth in proficiency.
3. Improve the tutoring and school choice provisions by allowing schools to provide tutoring first, and school choice second to students who are not proficient, and to allow school districts that are in need of improvement to provide high quality tutoring.
4. Ensure that schools are not subject to very severe sanctions if they are improving the proficiency of students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency. If students with disabilities and students with limited English proficiency are making substantial progress, the school or district would not be required to change the curriculum, fire teachers and principals or be closed or taken over.
5. Provide flexibility for schools that have Native language immersion programs. Schools across the country who predominantly serve Alaska Native, American Indian or Native Hawaiian students have instituted indigenous language immersion programs to help prevent the disappearance of our nation's indigenous languages and cultures. This provision will give credit to schools that demonstrate that Native language immersion students are learning even if the assessment is not in the language the students are learning in.
6. Facilitate more parental involvement in our schools by allowing parent-teacher associations and organizations to be members of federally funded partnerships formed to improve low-performing schools and to provide training to teachers and principals to improve parental engagement and school-parent communication.
Murkowski's bill has been endorsed by the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association (NEA), NEA-Alaska, PTA-Alaska and the National School Board Association.
"I have been talking with Alaskans about NCLB since I came to the Senate," Murkowski said. "While these six issues are not the only concerns that Alaskans have with the No Child Left Behind Act, they are Alaskans' top priorities to fix. I want to thank the many educators, parents and students who have assisted in developing this legislation, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as we update NCLB."
It is Murkowski's intent to incorporate these changes into the overall reauthorization of NCLB, which is expected to begin later in the year.
Murkowski introduced a similar bill in the previous Congress.