Congress has a lot of work to do to help improve public education, starting with the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While there are provisions in both the Administration's blueprint and the Senate Education Committee's drafts of education reform with which I agree, I continue to work with my colleagues on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to craft comprehensive legislation to fix what's wrong with No Child Left Behind, and give America's students the competitive edge they need to compete in the global economy.
First, we need to address the current federally directed nature of America's K-12 education evaluation system. I am concerned about the many complaints I have received that NCLB forces "teaching to the test" and "high-stakes testing," that led teachers to abandon many creative, enriching aspects of their curriculum in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach. Our nation's educational system must recognize that the federal government is not well suited to measure student and teacher performance. More effective student and teacher evaluation systems are already being implemented in states like Illinois, and the federal government should work to foster, rather than stymie, these efforts.
Second, in order to truly understand how to best help a student's performance, it's important to track each child's progress. One of the biggest failings of NCLB is that it did nothing to track individual growth, so I support the use of growth models, which provide parents and teachers with the real-time information they need to improve each individual student's performance in the classroom. School performance should reflect the progress schools are making to educate students -- not penalize them for falling short of arbitrary federal standards.
Third, as a former school board president, I am a strong proponent of local control of our schools. I would like ESEA to give additional flexibility to states and schools to address the challenges of special education and Limited English Proficiency students. States have come up with innovative ways to address these challenges without sacrificing accountability, and they should be allowed to implement them.
While the Administration's blueprint for education reform, Race to the Top, shares many of these goals, I'm concerned that the lack of Congressional oversight has led to an inferior product. While I'm pleased Illinois was selected as a recipient of $42.8 million in federal education funding during the third round of Race to the Top (RTTP) grant awards, Congress needs to address the weaknesses of Race to the Top, incorporate input from local educators, and craft a full reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that the next generation of Americans is equipped to compete in the 21st Century economy.