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NEA Likes Senate GOP's Bill to Overhaul NCLB

Count the National Education Association as a fan (for the most part) of the No Child Left Behind Act renewal bill put forth last month by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a former Secretary of Education who has often clashed with the union.

The NEA sent a letter to Alexander telling him how much it likes his take on how best to renew the NCLB law (the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act).

In particular, the union is in favor of the accountability provisions in the bill, which would largely leave decisions about how to fix all but the bottom 5 percent of schools to states. The Alexander bill would also offer addtional options for states seeking to turn around struggling schools. (NEA isn't such a fan of the current menu put forth by the Obama administration.)

"Many of your proposed changes mirror those NEA has long sought," write Kim Anderson, the union's director of government relations, and Mary Kusler, the manager of federal advocacy.

The union also likes the fact that the bill would maintain disagreggated data (breaking out student performance by subgroup), and allow for multiple measures to demonstrate student achivement.

Probably most interestingly:The union gave a thumbs-up to the teacher-quality provisions in the bill. Alexander would keep in place incentives for performance pay through an existing program, the Teacher Incentive Fund, but he wouldn't require districts to go that route.

"We commend you for recognizing that teacher evaluations are best done collaboratively and at the local level," Anderson and Kusler write.

But NEA has some beef with parts of the legislation, including the elimination of the so-called "savings clause" which the union says protects collective-bargaining rights. It's also not so thrilled with what it sees as lack of accountabilty for charter schools, and proposals that would block grant money for teacher quality and school safety.

We'll have to wait until Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, releases his bill (maybe as soon as next week) to see what the NEA thinks of his vision for ESEA's future.

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