A Big Step Forward for ESEA Reauthorization

April 22, 2015

The last iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), aka No Child Left Behind (NCLB), was slated to be reauthorized in 2007. Everyone agrees that the law needs to be updated, and it seems like the time is ripe. At the beginning of the year, the Senate Education Committee indicated they would take up the reauthorization this year and held several hearings seeking input on the best way to change the law. In January, NBCTs Rachelle Moore and Stephen Lazar testified in two of these panels to discuss how federal funds can better support a teaching continuum and to raise concerns with testing.

Here are some of the highlights as ESEA has moved through the Senate over the last few months:

  • Many Senators used the early part of this year to introduce bills to inform the conversation and set marks for what they wanted to see in the next ESEA bill. In March, Senator Casey (PA) and Senator Reed (RI) introduced the Better Educator Support and Training Act (BEST), which aims to improve the part of NCLB that supports professional development activities. The proposed bill would create a comprehensive continuum by strengthening entry into the profession, ensuring ongoing professional learning for all teachers and creating opportunities for teacher leadership.
  • Just a few weeks later, the lead Democrat and Republican on the Senate Education Committee—Senator Alexander (TN) and Senator Murray (WA)—introduced the Every Child Achieves Act, a comprehensive bipartisan bill to reauthorize ESEA. This bill incorporates many of the components of Senator Casey’s BEST Act. The National Board and its partners in the Coalition for Teaching Quality (CTQ) were particularly pleased to see that the Every Child Achieves Act includes provisions to strengthen teacher and principal quality through improved preparation, performance assessment, residency programs, induction programs, and professional learning and growth and leadership opportunities. (See the National Board’s ESEA recommendations.)
  • We’re also pleased that the bill builds on the successful Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) initiative by including provisions that could advance programs like the National Board’s Network to Transform Teaching.
  • Last week, the Every Child Achieves Act passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously, by a vote of 22-0. This is a significant mark of progress. This is the third time the Senate has tried to reauthorize ESEA in the last several years, but this was the first attempt with broad bipartisan support. (See National Board’s letter on the bill)
The National Board will continue to advocate that policymakers strengthen this bill as it moves forward. In particular, we hope to see the bill ensure that states and districts use their professional development funds to adopt a comprehensive strategy for developing and supporting excellent educators that results in improved learning for all students. We will also work to ensure the bill increases opportunities for prospective and new teachers to complete a teaching residency. Support in this bill for mediated entry would give new teachers, like their counterparts in medicine, an opportunity to anchor their skills and knowledge in practice before becoming the teacher of record. It would also put them on a trajectory to becoming accomplished, Board-certified teachers.
This spring is sure to be an exciting time as all 100 Senators have the chance to debate the reauthorization of ESEA. Although the Senate could vote on the bill in early summer, there is no guarantee the House of Representatives will pass their own bill. So, even though there are many moving pieces that could present barriers for finishing the reauthorization of ESEA this year, after last week’s action, stakeholders see a real possibility that ESEA will get reauthorized this year.

Seth Gerson & Sarah Pinsky

Seth Gerson is Director of Government Relations at the National Board, advocating for federal policies that assist in recognizing and supporting the National Board’s vision of building a continuum in teaching to elevate the profession and using the skill and knowledge of accomplished teachers to advance student learning and school reform. Before joining the National Board in 2010, Gerson served as the Senior Education Policy Advisor for U. S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), during his time as a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. In that capacity, he drafted and advanced legislation related to teacher and principal preparation, evaluation and development; college access and affordability; early childhood care and education; career and technical education; and national service. Sarah Pinsky is a policy associate at the National Board. She supports the National Board’s state and federal policy efforts by analyzing federal and state legislation, writing policy memos and reports, and assisting the government relations team in organizing federal and state policy events. Previously, she worked at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), where she managed state and federal policy efforts on issues related to teacher preparation.