Both New Mexico senators voted in favor of a No Child Left Behind replacement Wednesday, following unanimous support last week on the same bill from the state’s Congressional delegation.
Democrats and teachers unions have widely praised the Every Student Succeeds Act for taking away federal oversight of accountability from standardized tests. Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government could withhold money from schools that scored low on the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, which were made from standardized test scores.
The new bill, which cleared the House of Representatives last week, leaves this type of accountability measures to the states.
“It gives states the decision on high stakes testing, which unfortunately in our state the governor wants,” Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said in an interview.
Under Gov. Susana Martinez, the state Public Education Department uses student standardized test results to make up half of the calculation that goes into yearly state teacher evaluations.
School districts can submit alternative teacher evaluation, as Santa Fe Public Schools did, that contain less emphasis on testing. PED approved SFPS’ plan.
President Obama has said he will sign the legislation to replace NCLB, which was signed into law in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush.
Charles Goodmacher, director of government relations for National Education Association New Mexico said his union also “strongly supports” the measure.
In a statement, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., called the bill “a major step forward.”
“I hear from New Mexicans everyday who are concerned about excessive testing and worry that their kids are falling behind,” Udall Said. “No Child Left Behind hasn’t worked for students, teachers, parents or schools.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said the bill will help teachers rear students to compete in the 21st Century economy.
“After more than a decade of high-stakes standardized testing of No Child Left Behind that robbed our students of instruction time and devastated teacher morale, we have finally passed a bill to do away with policies that jeopardize our kids’ prospects of a good education,” Heinrich said in a statement.
The total Senate vote for the bill was 82-12 in support. Last week, the House passed the measure on a similarly wide 359-64 vote.
Many Republicans are supporting the bill for its emphasis on the states. Last week, Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said the bill would effectively end “the President’s ability to coerce states to comply with Common Core.”
But not everything about the Every Student Succeeds Act is rosy. The Washington Post recently ran an opinion piece from a University of Washington at Seattle professor of teacher education criticizing the bill for including teacher preparation guidelines that “primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs.”
“These include fast-track teacher education programs such as Teach For America, Relay and TNTP, which place individuals in classrooms as teachers of record before they complete certification requirements,” Kenneth Zeichner writes. “Typically these classrooms are in schools that serve students in high-poverty communities.”
Bernstein herself criticizes these types of programs, though she emphasized that the bill isn’t perfect but is still a big improvement over NCLB.
Others say the changes on the ground will not be as big as some say; The Atlantic notes that 42 states plus the District of Columbia currently have waivers from NCLB. New Mexico is one of those states.
The state PED has defended controversial elements of its reform, including tying teacher evaluations to tests, as being necessary to maintain that waiver.