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House Minority Lawmakers Want Subgroup Targets in ESEA Bill

House lawmakers representing districts with high concentrations of Asian, African-American, and Hispanic students have said they'd like to see a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act include performance targets for different subgroups of students.

You can check out the full letter, by the so-called "Tri-Caucus" here. The group's concerns are nothing new—it has said in the past that its members were worried about a potential retreat from subgroup accountability. But the letter is particularly interesting in light of the fact that a bipartisan, comprehensive rewrite of the ESEA law, recently approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, does not include federally-set performance targets for subgroup students.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Nov. 10 that he does not think the Senate measure can become law unless the House is able to pass bipartisan legislation.

I would note that historically, education policy in Congress has been done in a bipartisan fashion and I believe that the House must also maintain that approach. Without a bipartisan bill coming out of the House, I believe it would be difficult to find a path forward that will draw the support we need from both sides of the aisle to be able to send a final bill to the President that advances education for America's students. Here in the Senate we have demonstrated that it is possible to reach bipartisan consensus despite the thorny issues in education. We all need to work together in a bipartisan way to replace the No Child Left Behind Act with a new and better law.

Earlier this week, advocates were speculating that Harkin was going to hold off putting a bipartisan rewrite on the floor until the House is able to act. The House education committee has written three ESEA renewal bills, but still has yet to deal with the tricky issues of teacher evaluation and accountability.

The Obama administration continues to oppose key portions of the measure, including the bill's teacher evaluation component, which would require only districts that receive Teacher Incentive Fund or Race to the Top money to craft evaluation systems based on student outcomes.

But Harkin said the bill he cosponsored "is based largely on the administration's ESEA blueprint, released in March of 2010.

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