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Key Ed. Groups to Harkin: Let's Slow Down on ESEA

Five key education groups, including the National Education Association and the American Association of School Administrators, are urging Sen. Tom Harkin to put the brakes on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

They have four key concerns, outlined in an Oct. 16 letter to Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the ranking Republican Michael Enzi. The other three groups that signed the letter are the national associations representing local school boards, and elementary and secondary school principals.

Two of those concerns they basically share with the state chiefs: that states need more leeway in designing school turnaround models and measures of student growth.

A third concern is, no surprise, that the bill goes too far in mandating states to revamp teacher and principal evaluation systems. "We are concerned about the capacity of states and local school districts to develop meaningful evaluation systems that do not become mechanisms for forced teacher and principal distribution," the letter says. (Of course, then there are other groups, such as the Democrats for Education Reform, that doesn't think the bill goes far enough in this area.)

And a fourth concern is that the bill is still too reliant on testing students every year through "one high-stakes summative assessment."

To sum up, the groups throw in a general concern about the process: "We are concerned by the closed nature of the amendment process and ask that the committee consider any and all proposed amendments on their merit, and not dismiss them for political or timing reasons," the letter reads. "We welcome the opportunity to work with you as you slow the pace to support a meaningful dialogue around ESEA."

It sounds like this group of key constituencies would rather roll the dice on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's waiver process, and perhaps even a Republican Congress, than deal with Harkin's bill.

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