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The Hill - House GOP Proposes No Child Left Behind Reforms to Empower States

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By Pete Kasperowicz

House Republicans on Thursday introduced a bill to reform the federal education program known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that would lift many of the federal mandates that schools now face, and give states more flexibility to set education standards.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and other Republicans proposed the Student Success Act, H.R. 5. The low bill number indicates it's a priority of House GOP leaders, and Kline's committee is expected to mark up the bill on June 19.

"Americans have been waiting for Washington to fix No Child Left Behind for far too long," Kline said. "Our education system faces serious challenges that cannot be addressed by a jumbled patchwork of temporary waivers and antiquated mandates."

The Department of Education has granted states a waiver from several NCLB requirements, but the House bill would permanently give states more flexibility to set their own education standards.

For example, it would eliminate federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards and let states set their own accountability standards, "thereby retiring authority for measuring student performance to states and school districts."

It would also eliminate federally mandated actions and interventions that under-performing schools have to face, and lets states set standards on how to define "highly qualified teachers."

"The legislation ensures state and local education leaders will have every opportunity to do what's right for our children, and prevents excessive federal intrusion in our classrooms," said Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), who chairs the early childhood subcommittee. "By getting out of their way and affording more flexibility, we believe this proposal will help parents and teachers set more children on the path to a successful future."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, proposed his own bill to reform NCLB, S. 1094. That bill also provides for more state flexibility and eliminates AYP, although Harkin said this week that his proposal still includes some federal-level "encouragement" for states to stress early learning programs and provide full-day kindergarten.

His bill would also set federal parameters that state education programs must meet.

"These systems must: cover all students, including students with disabilities and English learners; continue to measure and report on the performance of all schools; expect sufficient progress for all schools and subgroups of students; and provide for local interventions in low-performing schools or schools with low-achieving student subgroups beyond the lowest performing 5 percent," Harkin said.

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