Statement in Response to Chairman Kline’s Legislation

Today, U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) introduced two pieces of legislation that mark the latest efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.

Following the introduction of the legislation, AFSA President Diann Woodard released the following statement:

AFSA thanks Chairman Kline and the committee for their efforts to reauthorize ESEA, and for their commitment to improving education for all students.

While we are still reviewing all of the details of the legislation, we applaud the elimination of requiring students to be 100 percent proficient by 2014. In addition, we are very pleased with the elimination of Adequate Yearly Progress and the highly prescriptive School Improvement models, and we are glad school leaders are included in the development of evaluation systems.

However, there are still several areas of concern in the two pieces of legislation.

We believe states should be required to use funds to train school leaders on how to evaluate teachers under new evaluation systems. Meaningful, ongoing, professional development and training is essential for principals, assistant principals and other school leaders to continue learning and improving their skills.

In addition, we are deeply concerned with the requirement that evaluations must “make student achievement data a significant part of the evaluation.” We believe test scores are an inaccurate measure of a teacher and school leader’s performance.  Such a measurement could possibly worsen the “teaching-to-the-test” issue created by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

We are also alarmed that the legislation would allow funds to be directed toward voucher programs.  AFSA believes vouchers run counter to the very purpose of ESEA. Instead of providing equal access to high quality education or setting high standards and accountability, voucher programs have proven ineffective, lack accountability to the taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and funnel taxpayer funds away from public schools that are in desperate need of increased funding.

Another major area of concern is the provisions related to funding. Granting districts flexibility on how federal dollars are spent, even with the best of intentions, could result in resources being redirected away from underserved student populations. This could represent an abandonment of the proper federal role under ESEA, which is to protect civil rights and ensure the most disadvantaged children have access to a quality education.
AFSA looks forward to working with the committee and members of Congress on addressing these concerns and improving the legislation as it moves forward.