Conservative lawmakers won a big concession today on the teacher-evaluation portion of a bill to renew the No Child Left Behind Act. Under the change, which was ultimately endorsed by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, states and school districts would not be required to craft teacher-evaluation systems based on student outcomes.
Instead, those evaluations—which are already causing headaches for states who have put them in place in exchange for the Obama administration’s waivers from the NCLB law—would be totally voluntary. It is almost certain that Kline threw in the towel on teacher evaluations—a policy he was personally passionate about—in order to win final passage of the bill. A vote is expected tomorrow.
The teacher-evaluation change was pushed by a pair of conservative Republicans—Reps. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and Steve Scalise, R-La.—who thought Kline’s original language went way too far in maintaining a federal role in K-12 education.
Under an amendment introduced by the duo, which was accepted by voice vote, teacher-evaluation systems that take student outcomes into account would be optional, not a requirement. The provision was endorsed by the National Education Association, but disparaged by a host of education redesign groups, who argued it would take the teeth out of the whole idea of holding teachers accountable for their students’ progress.
The revision makes the House Republican bill—which is expected to pass the House tomorrow with only GOP support—a much closer cousin to an NCLB rewrite bill introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top lawmaker on the Senate education committee. During debate, House lawmakers also accepted a key amendment that would make it clear that school districts can use “multiple measures” (not just standardized tests) in assessing students.
And they agreed to an amendment that would express the “sense of Congress” that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “coerced” states into adopting the common-core standards through the Race to the Top program.
Other interesting amendments meant to make political statements were withdrawn, including a provision by Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., that would allow states to opt out of federal accountability systems and return federal funding for education programs to taxpayers. Also withdrawn was an amendment by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash, which would have included much more stringent testing requirements for students with disabilities. (Kline promised he’d work with McMorris Rodgers, whose son has special needs, on the issue.) More…