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Michael Highsmith

Technology has given us some amazing things over the years, but you don’t see people using VHS and cassette tapes today. Times are changing, and if something better is available, why should we be stuck in the past? Much like cassette tapes, the federal government’s role in education needs an update.

Last month, Missouri’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver was extended to the 2017-18 school year. In exchange for adopting administration-favored policies such as teacher equity plans, Missouri will receive relief from the accountability decree, “All children will be proficient by 2014.”

In 2012 the Education Department began issuing waivers as more and more states failed to hit the “adequate yearly progress” targets set forth in NCLB. Since then, 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have received waivers.

Until Congress passes a new law, NCLB will ensure that students remain victims of the federal government’s failing status quo. The School Superintendents Association represented more than 10,000 school administrators across the United States saying the law contained federal overreach and unworkable mandates and requirements.

When more than 80 percent of the participants of the program are granted explicit permission to waive penalties, there must be some call for change.

In April, the Senate Education Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to revise NCLB.

This bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), would:

1.       Eliminate Adequate Yearly Progress targets and all of the sanctions that come along with them. Standardized testing would be required as informational for parents and taxpayers, not as part of a federally imposed accountability system.

2.       Allow statewide annual performance tests to be broken up into smaller portions. This would allow many districts to eliminate additional tests they used to measure performance throughout the school year and increase efficiency.

3.       Prohibit any federal official from mandating or incentivizing states to adopt or maintain any particular set of standards (including Common Core, which is explicitly named).

4.       Allow states to set up their own accountability systems and to develop their own turnaround strategies for low-performing schools to be implemented at the local level.

All in all, the ECAA represents the federal government taking a big step back from NCLB waivers. Whether this bill will become law is another question entirely, but for now it is promising that a bipartisan group of senators can see that the federal government overreached and it is time for a course correction.

About the Author

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Michael Highsmith

Michael is a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute. A native of Saint Louis, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with emphasis in economics at Saint Louis University. Michael is researching budget and tax policy with the Show-Me Institute.