Greg Johnson: Alexander on mission to fix U.S. education

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is moving closer to his goal. The former Tennessee governor, former University of Tennessee president, former Secretary of Education and current chairman of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has a huge education bill on the Senate floor.

“My top priority in Congress this year is to fix No Child Left Behind by restoring responsibility to states and local government, reversing the trend to a national school board and ending Washington’s Common Core mandate,” Alexander told a crowd in Jackson, Tennessee, in May. In another act of bipartisanship in the Republican-controlled Senate, all 22 committee members, after debate and amendments, voted for the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

According to Alexander, the bill restores responsibility to those closest to the children, ends the Common Core mandate, reduces over-testing and increases school choice. Alexander told the educators, elected officials and parents in Jackson, “Our bill to fix No Child Left Behind will continue the law’s important measurements of academic progress of students but restore to states, school districts, classroom teachers and parents the responsibility for deciding what to do about improving student achievement.”

Alexander’s bill would end D.C. educational diktats. “The Every Child Achieves Act restores responsibility to states and districts for their local schools by providing increased flexibility to design and implement their education programs and systems, while also strictly prohibiting the U.S. Department of Education from dictating to states what standards to adopt, what accountability systems to implement, how to identify schools or teachers that need improvement, or how to use federal, state or local funds to operate their local schools,” said a release from his office.

The bill would peel back Common Core. “The bill requires that states are solely responsible for choosing which standards to adopt. The Secretary of Education cannot mandate, direct, or control State curriculum or standards,” Alexander said. “Also, the Secretary cannot require, coerce, or incentivize states to include or delete specific elements in their standards, or to adopt Common Core State Standards.”

Alexander’s plan would still measure progress and assure accountability, but would restore testing responsibility to the states. “The bill keeps in place the 17 federal tests, but states are responsible for deciding to what extent and how those test results are used to measure student achievement and school success,” Alexander said. “This will help reduce the cascade of state and local tests, which were used to prepare students for high-stakes federal tests under No Child Left Behind’s federal test-based accountability system.”

But local and state control works only if those local and state officials resist the temptation to dilute standards and dumb down tests to look good locally. We cannot measure effectiveness without robust testing, and our kids cannot compete globally if we do not demand much, much more of our students, teachers, administrators and elected officials.

While most of the bill addresses common-sense mechanics, Alexander’s proposal to expand charter schools offers an opportunity for many disadvantaged kids to be freed from the grips of a leftist ideological establishment. Teachers’ unions and education eggheads condemn poor and minority kids to a life of less by sentencing them to failed schools that are dangerous to both brain and body. School choice, though, is incredibly popular with parents of kids in high-risk neighborhoods who simply want their kids to learn and live until adulthood. Alexander’s expansion of charter schools could give those children a chance by giving them a choice.

“For over seven years, about 1 million children enrolled in Tennessee public schools have been going to school under an expired federal law,” Alexander wrote in a column earlier this week. “It’s time to fix No Child Left Behind.”

On this, right and left, red and blue, conservative and less so can concur. Alexander’s bill is a good start.

Greg Johnson’s columns appear on Wednesdays, Fridays and the second Sunday of each month. Follow him on Twitter @jgregjohnson. Email him at [email protected]

 

[“source – knoxnews.com”]

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