Bennet: Bipartisan NCLB Fix an Encouraging First Step

Bennet Provisions Would Support Teachers and Principals, Drive Innovation and End Inequality to Help Ensure Our Kids Receive a 21st Century Education

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today said that the bipartisan bill to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is an encouraging first step and that he hopes Congress will ultimately pass a bill to help ensure all of our kids receive a quality education. 

“If there was a rally tomorrow to keep No Child Left Behind the same, nobody would show up,” Bennet said. “In a system where only nine out of 100 children living in poverty will receive a four-year college degree, the burden of proof needs to shift from those who want to change the system to those who want to keep it the same.

“Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Enzi have worked tirelessly on a bipartisan bill to fix No Child Left Behind. I hope it will serve as a starting point to build broad support, and I am committed to working to find agreement with anyone committed to improving our public education system.”

While NCLB has provided valuable data, its measurements of success are misguided, it offers few solutions and its one size fits all approach constricts school districts and prevents innovation.

The bipartisan bill builds on areas of progress, while fixing some of NCLB’s longstanding problems that have stood in the way of further progress. The bill continues to collect and disaggregate data and ensures that there is still a focus on closing achievement gaps. It moves toward establishing college- and career-ready standards in states while focusing the federal role on the lowest performing schools.

It also vastly increases flexibility for school districts while reducing the number of federal programs and eliminating NLCB’s one-size-fits-all approach. 

Bennet, a member of the bill’s extended negotiating table, included several provisions in the bill to support teachers and principals, drive innovation and end inequality to help ensure that our kids receive a 21st century education. 

“As a former Superintendent, I have been on the receiving end of No Child Left Behind, and I know that well-intentioned ideas from Washington often do not make sense by the time they reach the classroom,” Bennet said. “States like Colorado that have been on the cutting edge of reform have been hampered by NCLB, and I will fight to keep the provisions in this new bill that support Colorado in continuing to implement their state-of-the-art accountability and growth model system rather than getting in the way.”

Bennet’s provisions include establishing a competitive grant program for high-performing teacher pathway programs; creating career ladder opportunities for teachers; investing in innovation and opportunities for rural districts; providing funding flexibility for school districts; and closing the comparability loophole that often results in low-income schools subsidizing their more affluent counterparts as well as prevents Title I funds from meeting their intended purpose.

He will also continue working to ensure that teachers can focus more on teaching and less on testing. Bennet ensured that the Colorado growth model would fit the definition of growth in the bill while allowing states the flexibility to design innovative models that make sense for them.  

A full list of Bennet’s provisions is included below.

Ensuring our Kids Receive a 21st Century Education

 

Support Teachers, Drive Innovation, End Inequity, and Update Accountability

 

Senator Michael Bennet’s priorities included in the bipartisan HELP bill

 

Get and Keep Great Teachers and Leaders in the Classroom

Senator Bennet’s provisions recognize that nothing makes a bigger difference to student learning than great teaching.  In order to support great teachers, he has fought to improve teacher training, support quality principals and create opportunities for districts to improve their systems for training, recruiting and retaining the best teachers and principals in the schools where they are need most.    

  • Establish a competitive grant program for high-performing teacher pathway programs
  • Create career-ladder opportunities for teachers and ensure new teachers get the mentoring they need
  • Ensure educators have a voice in the policies that affect them
  • Authorize the Teacher and Leader Incentive Fund
  • Expand Troops to Teachers so that all Title I schools and troops with four years of service are eligible
  • Focus on supporting principals
  • Elements of the Lead Act, which support training for the most effective principals to lead school turnarounds
  • Create English learner educator fellowships to support training teachers to work with English language learners

Spur Competition and Innovation

Senator Bennet’s provisions include resources for states and districts to develop innovative reform efforts based on their needs and to ensure that rural school districts have an opportunity to compete for resources.  He also pushed for provisions to identify innovative delivery systems, including those utilizing technology, and bring them to scale.

  • Authorize Race to the Top with eligibility for districts and early-childhood programs to compete
  • Authorize Investing in Innovation
  • Authorize Promise Neighborhoods
  • Ensure rural districts can compete for funds:
    • Support a rural carve out for competitions
    • Allow consortia of rural districts to apply together

Increase Flexibility

Senator Bennet’s provisions include flexibility for states and school districts to use federal resources where they are needed most, including a provision to allow school districts to extend learning time.   

  • Consolidate narrow funding streams into larger pots of money
  • Allow maximum transferability among Titles while still protecting the most vulnerable students
  • Allow the use of resources to extend the length of the school day

End Inequality

Senator Bennet’s provisions include closing a long-standing loophole in federal law that often results in low-income schools subsidizing their more affluent counterparts.  The loophole also often means that Title I funds do not always meet their intended purpose.  In order to receive Title I assistance, districts have to demonstrate that they are allocating their state and local resources equally among their high- and low-poverty schools.  Due to a loophole, school districts can meet this requirement without actually accounting for dollars going into each school because they can use other measures like average teacher salary across the district to comply.  So, districts often end up providing more local funding to schools in affluent areas because they attract more experienced teachers who make higher salaries.  As a result, even with Title I assistance, low-income schools can end up with less funding than higher-income schools.

  • Close the comparability loophole

Updating Accountability, Standards and Assessments for the 21st Century

Senator Bennet worked to ensure that the new bill maintains accountability for schools with large achievement gaps and results in states adopting fewer, higher and clearer standards that will prepare students to succeed in college and their careers.  He also pushed for a common-sense accountability model that provides parents with useful information about how their children are progressing over time.  These provisions ensure that Colorado’s state-of-the-art accountability and growth model will work within the new law but also provide flexibility for other states.

  • Ensure accountability for schools with large achievement gaps
  • Adopt college- and career-ready standards
  • Ensure that Colorado’s growth model fits the definition of growth
  • Allow the Department of Education to collect and disseminate best practices to parents, teachers and school leaders (including the Secretary’s Report Card)
  • Identify lowest-performing 5 percent of schools every year
  • Provide resources for common assessments
  • Create a Commission on Assessments for English language learners

Other Bennet Provisions:

  • Tie teacher licensing to effectiveness
  • Tie student data to teacher preparation programs
  • Charter School Quality Act language included to give priority to quality applications that report student growth
  • Impact Aid Timely Repayment Act language that will ensure that 14 Colorado districts currently waiting for payments receive them in a timely fashion
  • Ensure that early childhood is an allowable use of funds where possible
  • Reduce the compliance burden for proving supplement not supplant without weakening this protection
  • Eliminate set-asides for Supplemental Education Services and school choice
  • Ensure that parents get information "to the extent practicable in a language the parent can understand"
  • Competitive grant program in Title III for English language learning programs