News Releases

Senator Murray Joins in Introducing Bill to Prepare All Children for Success and Fix “No Child Left Behind”

Jun 04 2013

Bill to Reauthorize ESEA Would Provide America’s Children with the Skills They Need to Prepare for College and Careers

Murray, all 11 HELP Committee Democrats Sign on as Original Sponsors of Bill Introduced by Chairman Harkin, the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013”

HELP Committee Will Begin Markup on Tuesday, June 11

Washington D.C. - Today, Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the  of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee joined with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the HELP committee, to introduce the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and replace the failed tenets of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill, which has been co-sponsored by every Democratic member of the HELP Committee, will be considered by the committee starting next Tuesday, June 11th.

“This bill gives states and school districts the flexibility and resources they need to provide students with the path to success they deserve,” said Senator Patty Murray. “It recognizes that improving our education system means starting early, protecting students from falling through the cracks along the way, and ultimately, ensuring students graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to compete for jobs in the 21st century economy. I am proud to have helped author a bill that’s a step in the right direction for students in Washington state and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this important legislation forward.”

“The HELP Committee has spent years holding hearings and debating the long-overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” Harkin said. “The bill I have introduced today will build on the current state-led reforms that support teachers and schools as they prepare America’s children with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in college and careers. As we move forward with this bill, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to forge pragmatic solutions that will keep America’s schools on a path to success.”

Priorities that Senator Murray worked to include in the Strengthening America’s Schools Act as introduced include:

  • A new birth through grade 12 comprehensive literacy program, to ensure low-income students have the skills they need to read and write, based on the Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation (LEARN) Act.
  • Supports for high school reform that include career-related experiences and early college opportunities as outlined in the Promoting Innovations to 21st Century Careers Act.
  • Grants for financial literacy programs, based in part on Senator Murray’s Financial and Economic Literacy Improvement Act.
  • Provisions to improve educational outcomes for homeless children based on the Senator’s Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act.
  • Enhanced connections between early learning programs and school districts to ensure that young children are arriving at kindergarten ready to succeed.
  • Provisions to enhance supports for military-connected and tribal students and rural schools.

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act seeks to ensure that all of America’s children graduate college- and career-ready. No Child Left Behind provided important information on student performance and accountability for federal dollars, but it also unintentionally led to lower standards, a narrowing of curriculum and a “one-size-fits-all” approach to school improvement. The Strengthening America’s Schools Act would replace NCLB with a law that is fair to students and teachers, and provides states and districts with the certainty, support, and freedom they need to prepare all students for success in the 21st century.

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and a career. It does this by:

  • Supporting teachers and principals to help provide high-quality instruction;
  • Ensuring disadvantaged students get the supports they need to succeed; and
  • Focusing federal attention on supporting states and districts in turning around low-performing schools and closing achievement gaps.

No Child Left Behind presented a host of problems for schools, students, and educators, including: setting inflexible benchmarks without taking into consideration the different needs of schools and without recognizing student progress; mandating the same federal sanctions for all schools that created a pressure to “teach to the test;” requiring states and schools to adhere to prescriptive, Washington-generated accountability models; and forcing school districts to spend money on activities that did not make sense for all students or schools.

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act will establish a partnership of “shared responsibility” that recognizes the flexibility that states and districts need to implement their own accountability systems and interventions to improve schools, and enables states and districts to focus on turning around chronically struggling schools and those with significant achievement gaps.

The Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 will:

Focus greater attention on children in their early years to ensure they come to school ready to learn by:

  • Directing states to develop guidelines for what children should know and be able to do prior to kindergarten entry to reduce gaps in school readiness;
  • Providing greater access to high-quality literacy instruction for children in early childhood education programs;
  • Encouraging states to provide full-day kindergarten if they do not currently provide that service; and
  • Asking elementary schools that are among the lowest-achieving to develop or expand early childhood education to children so they can enter school ready to learn.

Encourage equity through greater transparency and fair distribution of resources by:

  • Continuing the practice of disaggregating student achievement data across subgroups to highlight any potential disparities, and expand the categories of disaggregation to include gender and English proficiency;
  • Disseminating an equity score card to provide school-level information to parents on the school’s climate, the school’s educational opportunity offerings (such as AP, full-day kindergarten, or gifted programming), the number of assessments required, and the school’s funding by source (state, local, and federal); and
  • Ensuring that local and state resources per-pupil for Title I schools are equal to or greater than the average combined local and state funds per pupil in non-Title I schools.

Sustain current state reform efforts and provide them the flexibility they need to improve their schools:

  • If a state has an accountability system approved by the Secretary, it can continue to use their approved accountability system. If not, a state will adopt an accountability system that is equally ambitious and holds all students to high expectations of student achievement.
  • All accountability systems will include student academic achievement and growth, English language proficiency for English Learners and, for high schools, graduation rates for all students; systems will also include accountability for all subgroups. This accountability system asks states to identify and support –
    • Priority schools - The lowest-achieving 5 percent of each elementary schools and secondary schools, and secondary schools with a graduation rate lower than 60 percent.
    • Focus Schools - Ten percent of schools with the greatest achievement gaps and secondary schools with the greatest graduation rate gaps between subgroups.
    • For all other schools, districts will identify schools experiencing achievement gaps across subgroups and will develop and implement a locally-designed intervention for that school based on input from the community.

Support great teachers and principals and ensure that all children receive the best instruction, by:

  • Helping to ensure there are great teachers and principals in every school by supporting evaluations that will inform professional development to help promote school success.
  • Recruiting and training teachers in high-need subjects like math and science.
  • Providing incentives to ensure that the most effective teachers and leaders serve the most vulnerable children.
  • Helping more schools provide a well-rounded education with time for the arts and physical activity.
  • Supporting student success by promoting safe and healthy schools.
  • Preparing more teachers to teach the diverse learners in America’s schools including students with disabilities and English learners.