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July 6, 2015

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The following post is by Lexi Barrett, America Forward’s Policy Director.

This week, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are making a historic push forward to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most recently known as the No Child Left Behind Act. Despite many attempts, Congress has repeatedly failed to update and improve the law. That all could change this week, as the Senate is expected to bring the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act to the Senate Floor for debate and the House is expected to resume consideration of its Republican Student Success Act.

Although No Child Left Behind made important strides in revealing and tasking schools with addressing long-ignored achievement gaps, the law mandated prescriptive solutions to educational challenges, which has stifled educational innovation and prevented schools from focusing on what works. As Congress charts a new path, America Forward is working to support innovative and evidence-based approaches to elementary and secondary education that help ensure every child has access to a world-class education, and the skills to succeed once they leave school.

The Every Child Achieves Act includes a number of promising updates to the law, including:

  • Multiple Measures of Success: The bill moves away from No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all approach to improving schools. Instead, states and school districts would have flexibility to incorporate measures of school success beyond standardized test scores and design targeted solutions based on the full range of student needs.
  • Focus on Evidence: The bill includes landmark language in Titles I and IV that would allow states and school districts, if they choose, to use existing funds to support Pay for Success initiatives. By focusing on results and creating incentives for cost-effective interventions, Pay for Success expands funding for high-quality programs that actually deliver results, leading to greater benefits for students.
  • Competency-Based Learning: The bill creates an innovative new program that would allow states to work with school districts to develop innovative assessment systems based in competency rather than seat time. These new assessment systems would allow students to demonstrate mastery of skills at their own pace and have the potential to dramatically reshape our classrooms and personalize learning for each student.

The Student Success Act also includes language focused on evidence and effective external partnerships:

  • Focus on Evidence: Similarly, the Every Child Achieves Act includes language in Title II that would allow states and school districts, if they choose, to use existing funds to support Pay for Success initiatives.
  • Effective External Partnerships: The bill includes provisions that would encourage partnerships among schools, districts, and effective external partners.

These are important steps forward, and America Forward is working with Congress in the coming days and weeks to do even more to craft a strong Elementary and Secondary Education Act. America Forward will be advancing improvements to both the Every Child Achieves Act and Student Success Act that empower high-quality external partnerships, promote the use of data, maintain accountability, support learner-centered systems, and invest in what works for students.

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