As the United States Senate opens discussions this week on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law, Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced two pieces of legislation designed to improve the one-size-fits-all policies that are clearly not working for Alaska's students. The two bills she has introduced would work to address the frightening national level of high school dropouts and ensure accountability for billions in federal tax dollars, while allowing Alaskans to fix problem schools on their own terms.
"I have heard from Alaskans from across the state--teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, and parents--about the No Child Left Behind Act and how it clearly doesn't always work in a state an unique as ours," said Senator Murkowski. "I believe my legislation strikes the right balance between a top down, one-size-fits-all mandate and an impractical custom-fit solution by allowing those closest to the students to make the needed fixes."
Murkowski's first bill -- The Educational Accountability and State Flexibility Act -- takes the power away from Washington, DC and hands it to local school boards and districts. It would ensure that school improvement efforts are fair, appropriate and effective by giving states the ability to maintain accountability for federal tax dollars by allowing them to recognize good schools and improvement efforts. It also requires states to implement flexible, common sense ways to fix schools in the regions they are more familiar with. The bill would:
Require states, not the federal government, to determine each school's level of success based on broad, flexible parameters; to publish the results, reward what schools are doing right, and help schools that need help;
Require states to diagnose why a school is not improving and apply locally-appropriate fixes--not implement a "school turnaround model" mandated by the federal government;
Respect the voice and expertise of our nation's indigenous first peoples regarding what helps Native children succeed in school.
Murkowski's second piece of legislation, The Early Intervention for Graduation Success Act, would amend the current School Dropout Prevention program to direct competitive grants to states and school districts with the lowest graduation rates where they are most needed. These grants would fund effective, sustainable, and coordinated school dropout prevention activities by instituting preventative measures and proactively identifying the first signs of students sliding off-course -- as early as Pre-K on through high school.
"The decision a child makes to drop out of school is not something that just happens overnight, but rather over a long period of time," said Senator Murkowski. "It starts with a bad day or a tough subject, and over time turns into major frustration. Eventually, this student is on the completely wrong path in terms of success. This bill keeps at-risk kids on track and builds "educational guardrails" to help schools identify those children who are starting to miss the mark."