U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined 10 of her colleagues in sponsoring the Strengthening America's Schools Act of 2013, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and reform No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the HELP Committee, introduced the legislation and the HELP Committee will begin marking up the bill today.
"In Wisconsin we know that the surest path to the middle class is providing every child a quality education and the skills they need to succeed," said Senator Baldwin. "As we work to move our economy forward I believe a strong investment in education must be at the foundation of our efforts and building that foundation is a top priority of mine in the U.S. Senate. In order to strengthen and grow the middle class, we must strengthen our commitment to investing in our students, educators and public 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 on student performance and accountability for federal dollars, 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 get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and a career. It does this by:
Supporting teachers and principals to help provide high-quality instruction;
Ensuring disadvantaged students get the supports they need to succeed; and
Focusing federal attention on supporting states and districts in turning around low-performing schools and closing achievement gaps.
The legislation 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. 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 of 2013 will focus greater attention on children in their early years to ensure they come to school ready to learn, encourage equity through greater transparency and fair distribution of resources, sustain current state reform efforts and provide them the flexibility they need to improve their schools and support great teachers and principals, and ensure that all children receive the best instruction.