Murphy hopes to amend education bill to address civil rights concerns

Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy hopes to amend a new federal education bill so that problem schools and under-performing students could be more clearly identified and given the help they need.

The education overhaul under debate in the Senate, called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, would give states more authority in determining which schools are failing. It would replace the controversial No Child Left Behind Act.

Under the proposal, states must include tests in their accountability systems, but would be able to determine the weight of those tests. They would also be required to use graduation rates and English proficiency in determining the performance of a school. But they would also be allowed to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems.

While many educators hail the Senate bill as an improvement over the current federal education system, a coalition of 36 civil rights organizations are concerned there won’t be enough accountability, and that failing minority and disabled students will fall through the cracks.

Murphy’s amendment, likely to get a Senate vote later this week, would require schools that underperform for several years to come up with a plan to fix their problems.

But, unlike No Child Left Behind, which threatened failing schools with a loss of federal funds, there would be no penalty assessed on a chronically underperforming school.

“We’re really relying on sunlight to fix problems,” said Murphy, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

He said civil rights groups and the White House, which has also been seeking more accountability in the Senate education bill, also support his amendment.

There has been no reauthorization of federal education law since No Child Left Behind was approved in 2002.

“No Child Left Behind has largely been a disaster for Connecticut,” Murphy said.

Connecticut was the first state to sue the federal government over the act because it said the law’s requirement of yearly testing would hurt its efforts to close an achievement gap between poor children and other students.

The House of Representatives approved a more conservative education bill last week. If the Senate approves its education legislation, a final bill would be negotiated between the chambers.

 

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