Senate HELP Committee’s ESEA Reauthorization Bill Has Deeper Learning Wins

On June 11 and 12, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee marked up the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA). SASA, sponsored by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), is a proposed reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (more commonly known, perhaps, as No Child Left Behind), which has been overdue for a reauthorization since 2007.

SASA passed out of committee on a 12-10 vote that was sharply divided along party lines. The bill now faces a certain next step, moving to the Senate floor, but when that step will occur is uncertain.

Contained within SASA are a number of wins for Deeper Learning advocates. With thanks to the Alliance for Excellent Education’s advocacy team for their assistance, these include:

  • The purpose statement has been amended to reflect the need for all students to acquire several of the Deeper Learning competencies (critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication).
  • The bill outlines requirements for the content standards set by states, including that they be aligned with credit-bearing coursework, without the need for remediation, at public institutions of higher education in the state and that they be evidence based and include several of the Deeper Learning competencies (critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication).
  • Includes additional requirements for state assessments including:
    • The use of multiple up-to-date measures of student achievement that assess the full range of academic content and student academic achievement standards
    • Measurement of several of the Deeper Learning competencies
  • Permits partial delivery of assessments in the form of portfolios, projects, or extended performance tasks
  • Allows Department of Education funding to support the implementation of state assessments to be used to develop multiple measures of student academic achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding, and elicit complex student demonstrations or applications of knowledge and skills.
  • The bill also includes a new competency pilot that permits states, or consortia of states, to incorporate competency into their statewide accountability system. Under the pilot, states will utilize a system of formative, interim, and summative assessments, including performance assessments. If the Secretary determines that progress has been made on graduation rates and state assessments, including among student subgroup, the pilot may be expanded.

Stay tuned for further developments on this legislation and the ESEA reauthorization process overall. Next week, the House Education and the Workforce committee will mark up a bill from the Republican majority to reauthorize ESEA.


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