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Policy Group to Congress on ESEA: Don't Let the Perfect Be Enemy of the Good

Before members of Congress took off for Memorial Day recess last week, the Washington policy think-tank Third Way blasted out their message to members of Congress about overhauling the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, specifically the bipartisan Senate bill:

"The bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act may not be perfect, but it makes notable improvements to the most scorned aspects of No Child Left Behind."

Now that lawmakers are back in town and the Senate sits poised to take up the bill brokered for months by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking member who carefully shepherded the bill through committee, Third Way's message is a salient one.

When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calls up the bill for debate toward the end of this month or early July—as many advocates predict he will—that message will be crucial to drive home in order to garner enough support for the bill from both sides of the aisle.

That's especially true for those on the right who will want to see more school choice policies like Title I portability included in the bill, and for those on the left who will want to see more safeguards in place for low-performing schools and subgroups of students. 

"While few would call the bill perfect, voters and policymakers across the political spectrum should appreciate just how far Alexander and Murray's ECAA goes in moving the country away from the one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB," wrote Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the policy group's director of social policy and politics, in an email sent to every office on Capitol Hill.

Third Way's reminder came packaged as an infographic bulleted with key aspects of the proposal: The main takeaways?

  • On testing, the bill "lowers the stakes on testing while maintaining our ability to collect crucial data on achievement gaps."
  • On accountability, the bill "gets rid of one-size-fits-all, unrealistic goals."
  • On low-performing schools, the bill "allows districts and states to take the lead on developing plans to address low-performing schools."
  • On teachers, the bill "shunts the outdated "highly qualified teacher" standard while prioritizing equal access to great teachers and school leaders."

You can view the entire infographic here.

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