Alexander sees victory at hand in reforming NCLB

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says a House-Senate compromise on changes to the “No Child Left Behind” is near and he expects a bill encompassing one of his top priorities to be on President Obama’s desk by the end of the year, according to Michael Collins. He’s also confident Obama with sign the result.

The two chambers have both passed somewhat conflicting versions of the NCLB reform bill and negotiations have been underway to resolve them. Excerpts from Alexander’s comments, presented in a question-and-answer format:

“My hope would be that the Senate and the House conference could meet before Thanksgiving, agree on a bill, send it back to the two houses, and then send it on to the president, and it will become law during December.

“This is a bill that, as Newsweek magazine said everybody wants fixed. It has bipartisan support from teachers, governors, school administrators, parents. There’s no excuse for not getting it done. It will end the federal Common Core mandate, reverse the trend to a national school board and restore decisions about schools and children to parents, classroom teachers and communities, where those decisions should be.”

…”Obviously, we’re doing some things President Obama disagrees with. But from the beginning of our discussions, the president and the White House have been very constructive, and we’ve tried to accommodate as many of his concerns as we can. I believe if we can agree on it, the president will sign it.

…”The fundamental issue (in the House-Senate differences) was how much authority to restore to states and communities — how much more local control should there be of public schools. The Senate bill that passed is the biggest step toward local control of public schools in 25 years. It doesn’t go as far as I would like, but it’s an improvement. That’s No. 1.

“The second big issue was testing. The conclusion we came to was to keep the 17 federal tests — tests the federal government requires, but that the states design and that a student will take during elementary and high school — and report the results of the tests so parents and a community can know how the schools and the students are doing, but put the responsibility for what to do about the tests back in the hands of classroom teachers and local school boards and states.

“The explosion of testing, the over-testing that everyone is concerned about, has primarily come not from federally required tests but from the federal accountability system that told states and school boards what to do about the tests. As a result of that, states and local school districts are giving dozens of unnecessary tests because the federally required test counts for so much. Classroom teachers and local school boards know much better than Washington what to do about the results of the tests.”