Harkin's NCLB Bill No Longer Mandates Teacher Evaluations

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) shifted a major teacher evaluation requirement out of his rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- known as No Child Left Behind -- over the weekend, shifting the dynamics of the debate over the bill's passage.

The initial sweeping education law called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was enacted in 1965, and a 2001 reauthorization under George W. Bush took on the name, "No Child Left Behind." The law has been up for reauthorization since 2007. Harkin's rewrite, the first comprehensive reform to the legislation, came out of negotiations with Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions committee that Harkin chairs.

Harkin released a draft of the bill last week that required school districts and states which receive educator development funding to create teacher evaluation systems that would take student performance into account. But changes over the weekend through a manager's amendment removed the requirement from the bill, instead shifting the teacher evaluation component to a competitive grant program called the Teacher Incentive Fund.

A Harkin staffer told The Huffington Post that the changes resulted from conversations with teachers, teachers' unions, and HELP committee members. Harkin reluctantly shifted the language in search of a bipartisan path forward, the staffer explained on background because she wasn't authorized to speak on the record about the issue.

The changes resulted in Enzi's first public showing of enthusiastic support for the bill. "This is not a perfect bill, nor does it solve every education issue," Enzi said Monday in a statement. "But it will make a huge, positive difference to our nation's young people."

The move led to increased support from teachers' unions, but the withdrawal of support from data-driven education reform groups and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who criticized Harkin's capitulation.

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