Advocacy Update: Bipartisan Support of Senate ESEA Bill

By Kelly Pollitt
April 2015, Volume 38, Issue 8

This April, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.”

Overall, principals support many of the bill’s provisions, which make significant improvements over current law. The bill recalibrates the one-size-fits-all federal accountability system, eliminating adequate yearly progress measurements, 100 percent proficiency requirements, and the unworkable school turnaround models that are required under the School Improvement Grants (SIG) program regulations. Notably, the bill does not include a provision to transform Title I funding into a private school voucher through “portability.”

NAESP believes the current version of the bill is a step in the right direction for principals as it requires states and districts to work with local stakeholders, including principals, to develop plans related to:

  • Accountability;
  • Assessment systems and interventions;
  • Disaggregation of subgroup data and reporting;
  • Emphasis on differentiated state accountability systems and measures that go beyond student achievement as part of statewide accountability system as determined by the state; and
  • Important guidance to states and districts to use programs and strategies that have a strong evidence base.


The bill also contains a stronger focus on principals and school leadership than current law, and includes provisions contained in the School Principal Recruitment and Training Act, a bill that has been an advocacy priority for NAESP over the past several years. Read more about the “wins” for principals in Every Child Achieves here.

However, NAESP has concerns that the bill does not require states to base assessment and accountability systems on student growth to avoid an overreliance on standardized assessments. NAESP continues to meet with lawmakers to encourage changes to the bill that would require states to measure student growth. Failure to do so may exacerbate schools’ current issues with states’ overreliance on high-stakes summative assessments.

The next phase of work will nonetheless be very challenging, particularly given the committee’s decision to delay several difficult issues until the floor debate, such as Republican efforts to ensure Title I portability and Democratic desires to insert more prescriptive accountability requirements in Title I.

Over the next two weeks, committee staff will work with the legislative counsel’s office to rewrite the bill to reflect the amendments made this week by the committee (read the list of amendments that were offered and the status here. They will also draft report language (lay explanations of the bill’s provisions) and prepare for up to two weeks of Senate floor debate, which will likely involve dozens of additional amendments. Chairman Alexander hopes to move the bill to the Senate floor quickly—possibly before the Memorial Day recess.

After additional follow up meetings this week, NAESP confirmed that both Senators Alexander and Murray remain committed to continuing with a bipartisan process, but have signaled there is significant work ahead in order to bring the bill to a conference committee and ultimately produce a bill that President Obama would sign into law. While the Senate seems on track to pass a bill that may yield bipartisan support, there is still considerable concern as to whether or not the conservative Republicans in the House would be able to pass a bipartisan bill or even complete work on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which was pulled from the House floor after it failed to garner the support needed to pass it through the chamber.

As the Senate bill advances and more is learned about the possible “end game” on ESEA reauthorization this year, NAESP will continue to be at the forefront of discussions to provide the principal’s perspective on key issues.

For more information or to answer questions about the reauthorization of ESEA, contact Kelly Pollitt, Associate Executive Director, Policy, Public Affairs and Special Projects at

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