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Opting Out Of Highly Qualified Teachers

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All of these bills are just markers for future wrangling, but one of the most notable elements of the NCLB proposal unveiled yesterday by Senators Lieberman, Coleman, and Landrieu is that it would let states opt out of the current HQT requirements, which have been pretty ineffective at doing anything beyond making sure districts didn't hire uncertified teachers (an accomplishment, actually), and replacing that with measures of teacher effectiveness.

Coleman backs changes to No Child Left Behind education law AP
As Congress debates whether to reauthorize President Bush's landmark No Child Left Behind education law, Sen. Norm Coleman and two other senators proposed legislation Wednesday that they say builds on that law but in a way that gives states more flexibility.

Senator Joe Lieberman: News Release Click below for full news release.

Press Release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - At a press conference on Capitol Hill today, Senators Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) unveiled legislation aimed at improving the current No Child Left Behind law. The Senators announced they will introduce the All Students Can Achieve Act of 2007 (ASCA), which focuses on improving teacher effectiveness and raising education standards for America's students.

The Senators were joined at the press conference by former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes of the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left Behind, Chancellor Joel Klein of the New York City Public Schools and Chancellor Michelle Rhee of the Washington, DC Public Schools.

"No Child Left Behind, which Congress must now reauthorize, provides a foundation, but we now must take new, bold steps in order to fulfill the national commitments we first made five years ago," said Lieberman. "That is why today we are presenting a significant reform proposal, which we are calling ' All Students Can Achieve' -- to make the law more parent-friendly, more student-friendly - and, above all, more results-friendly."

"This bill makes necessary changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to give every child the chance to succeed," said Landrieu. "It holds public schools accountable for students who are not making adequate progress and provides them with the tools to meet their students' needs. It also pushes our public schools to close the achievement gap and ensures our foster children don't fall through the cracks. I am proud that five years ago, I worked with Republicans and Democrats alike to craft legislation that encourages public schools to meet new, higher standards in education for all children, including the most disadvantaged. These improvements work to make our original goals for that legislation a reality. I want to thank Senators Lieberman and Coleman for their commitment to real education reform."

"Education must be one of our country's top priorities and I am proud to join Senators Lieberman and Landrieu in the fight to educate young America," said Coleman. "A quality education is imperative for individuals to succeed in life and for the United States to thrive in the increasingly competitive global market. I support accountability, but also flexibility when it comes to the No Child Left Behind law. Our legislation provides the flexibility educators have been asking for, without sacrificing high quality education for our children. Moreover, it builds upon No Child Left Behind's successes while also addressing its weaknesses, by promoting flexibility while maintaining accountability, high standards, effectiveness, and access to quality resources."

ASCA contains three key components for advancing quality education in America's public schools. First, ASCA aims to achieve student growth by focusing on what's most important: achieving results in the classroom and ensuring effective teachers. Second, the bill seeks to encourage high standards throughout the country and better align the curriculum of schools across America. And, third, the proposal focuses on closing the achievement gap by holding schools accountable for the performance of all students and providing resources to address this gap.

The legislation offered by Lieberman, Landrieu and Coleman has been endorsed by the Aspen Institute's bipartisan, independent Commission on No Child Left Behind. Last year, the Commission held numerous public hearings and roundtables across the country and collected written testimony and research from many parents, teachers and administrators. These hearings played a critical role in helping to shape many of the proposals contained in ASCA.

Below is a summary of the bill's highlights:

Focusing on the achievements of all students:

• To ensure parents that all students are achieving, states must create comprehensive data systems that track students' academic progress and other factors that affect their success.

• One of the most important factors in school and student achievement is teachers. The quality of teachers should be determined by their effect on students' learning, not just their qualifications. All students should have effective teachers. Thus, these data systems must link student achievement data to teachers, allowing states to measure teacher effectiveness.

• States should be held accountable for student achievement. However, students do not progress at the same pace or start in the same place. Thus, states are allowed the flexibility to measure student academic growth, rather than looking at absolute test scores. States are also encouraged to look at merit pay including getting the best teachers to teach in the poorest schools.

High expectations for all students:

• To ensure that all elementary through secondary school students, regardless of where they live, are prepared for success in college or the workplace, states must set high expectations for all students. Academic standards must be designed to prepare students to succeed and assessments must be effective tools to measure students' progress toward meeting these standards. Currently, states often weaken standards and assessments so that more schools and students appear to meet requirements.

• Voluntary American standards and assessments in reading, math and science would help raise the standards and assessments in states that have set their expectations too low. States will have the flexibility to adopt or adapt the American standards, thereby freeing up state resources for other educational needs, or keep their own standards, which the Secretary of Education would compare with the American standards.

• In order to ensure that high expectations are held for students from before they begin school to after they graduate, states must establish P-16 Commissions to ensure that state curriculum is aligned to standards that are at an optimum level. This will help to ensure that students graduating from high school succeed in college or the workplace.

Closing the Achievement Gap

• States need to focus resources on closing the achievement gap. This includes directing their attention to comprehensive interventions where more than 50% of students are not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or focused interventions where less than 50% of students are not making AYP. Federal support for these interventions will increase.

• New approaches need to be taken to close the gap. Thus, incentive grants will be awarded for innovative teacher and school programs.

• To ensure that all students are properly measured, current loopholes in the law that allow states to avoid counting students, especially students with disabilities and English language learners, or skew achievement data, are closed.

• Another important measure of academic achievement is high school graduation rates, which should be tracked and reported for all groups of students.

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