Sound Off: The Student Success Act
In July of 2013, Congress passed the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which is commonly seen as an amendment to the No Child Left Behind legislature. Though the new legislation has not yet seen an academic year through, individuals and organizations are speaking out about what they think of H.R. 5. Here we have compiled key points from letters, statements, and op-eds, but first, what is the Student Success Act?
The government website states “The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) will restore local control, support effective teachers, reduce the federal footprint, and empower parents.” According to a short summary of the bill from the Education and Work Force Committee, the Student Success Act:
- Returns Responsibility for Student Achievement to States, School Districts, and Parents While Maintaining high expectations
- Eliminates federal programs and invests limited taxpayer dollars wisely
- Strengthens programs for schools and targeted populations
- Supports local efforts to measure teacher effectiveness
- Engages parents in their child’s education
- Supports impact aid
- Maintains and strengthens long-standing protections for state and local autonomy
- Provides services for homeless students
More detailed effects of the passing of H.R. 5 (such as allowing Title I dollars to follow disadvantaged kids, and eliminating the secretary of education’s ability to inappropriately influence state decisions to adopt the Common Core) can be found in this press release from July 19th, 2013.
The week the bill passed, many industry leaders and educational organizations published official statements and letters to the chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
The NEA wrote an open letter to the House opposing the Student Success Act on June 18th, 2013. “Current law tips the balance too far in favor of the federal government, with overly prescriptive, on-size-fits-all systems…The Kline bill, however, moves too far in the direction of state flexibility, undermining the critical federal role in promoting equity for all students regardless of where they live.” The NEA also invoked historical education legislation in their letter: “As we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, we hope Congress will make a renewed effort to focus on the very real opportunity gaps in our education system, rather than perpetuate a system that intentionally delivers unequal opportunities and quality to children across this country.”
In their July 19th official statement, the PTA states “The Student Success Act fails to provide protections for continued adequate funding for education at the federal, state and local levels, lacks codification of the cap on alternate assessment for students with disabilities, and does not go far enough in providing universal access to high quality instruction.” However, the PTA is “pleased to see the inclusion of some family engagement provisions…Still, more can be done to empower families and schools to work together to increase student achievement.”
A letter to Chairman Kline from the School Superintendents Association’s Associate Executive Director Bruce Hunter on July 15th expressed support for the bill as “the beginning of the improvement process for NCLB” but stated “HR 5 is not perfect and we hope that some amendments are accepted to focus more funds on high poverty schools, retain current maintenance of effort provisions, and even the playing field between charter schools and public schools.”
Melissa Lazarin, the director of education policy at the Center for American Progress, published an editorial titled “The Student Success Act is the Wrong Way Forward.” She writes, “While NCLB is long overdue for reconsideration, the Student Success Act overlooks the long history this country has of underserving low-income students, English language learners, and students of color.” Lazarin argues the bill “will reduce the federal footprint” in education, but does so at the expense of students.
In a letter to the House, Associate Executive Director of the National School Boards Association Michael A. Resnick lends his initial support to the Student Success Act, writing “Overall, H.R. 5 reverses the trend toward greater federal control of education by providing states and local education agencies with the flexibility they need.”
In a July 17, 2013th letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, the ASCD stated that it is “taking no official position at this time on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act.” And “supports efforts to update federal education policy to better address the needs of today’s students, but we have numerous reservations about H.R. 5.” The ASCD “Appreciates the flexibility provided in H.R. 5…but believes the goal of measuring students should be to assess their learning progress so that instruction can be modified to ensure their learning success.”
It seems that, whether opposing or supporting the bill, educators agree that NCLB needed drastic revision, and the Student Success Act has taken steps toward these amendments. However, they also agree that the H.R. 5 does not make enough changes. Given these different perspectives, what are your thoughts on the Student Success Act? How do you see it affecting your school or district?