Capitol View: Congress Completes Major Education Reform Bill

Article excerpt

After a failed attempt in the previous Congress, the 107th Congress succeeded in passing education reform legislation in December 2001 to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The "No Child Left Behind Act," named for President Bush's education proposal, makes significant changes, but among its most notable features is the absence of initiatives that were focal points of the president's proposal. Provisions not included are private school vouchers, sweeping block grants and national tests for students. The legislation does make an effort to address flexibility and institute testing requirements, with specifics to be determined at the state level.

Some key elements of the bill are as follows:

Professional Development/Teacher Quality

The new law requires states and local school districts to ensure teacher quality. For example, beginning with the first school year after the proposal takes effect, each local school district receiving federal Title I funds will be required to ensure that all teachers hired and teaching in a program supported with those funds are "highly qualified." In addition, the plan provides local school districts with unprecedented flexibility in their use of the teacher quality funds. The new Teacher Quality Program will allow local school districts to use the funds for professional development, recruitment, and/or hiring of teachers based on their individual needs.

Title I/Reading and Testing

At the cornerstone of the ESEA reauthorization measure are reforms to Title I, which targets economically disadvantaged students through a formula that distributes funds through states to school districts. Other focus areas include bolstering the reading initiative. The Reading First and Early Reading First initiatives are designed to encourage states and local schools to implement "scientifically based" reading programs with the goal of ensuring that every student can read by grade three. …