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Franken provisions in bill may reform NCLB

Sen. Al Franken said the federal No Child Left Behind law placed unrealistic burdens on the nation’s schools but he’s hopeful that bipartisan reforms made to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be an improvement.

In a Friday interview from Washington, D.C., Franken said he successfully incorporated four key provisions into the Senate bill to reform No Child Left Behind.

“You could almost call it repeal,” he said of the changes to the education bill.

The four amendments were: Computer Adaptive Testing, School Principal Recruitment and Training, Fostering Success in Education and No Forced Transfer.

The first-term senator, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the bill must now come before the full Senate. A date for when that will take place hasn’t been determined yet.

The Computer Adaptive Testing measures within as well as above and below any grade level; will give immediate results; and will allow teachers to design individualized plans for students based on test results.

“It’s a more precise measure of where the kid is (academically),” Franken said.

The principal and recruitment training amendment will help find quality principals for high-need schools, Franken said. The Fostering Success in Education Amendment is designed to improve school stability and educational outcomes of foster youth by allowing them to remain in their current schools after they move to foster homes. His No Transfer Amendment clarifies that school districts don’t have to force teachers to transfer between schools to equalize funding between higher and low income schools in order to meet compatibility requirements.

Franken said in conversations with educators and parents he found that the No Child Left Behind program was not really liked by anyone.

One laudable element of No Child Left Behind, according to Franken, was its assessment of subgroups such as poor students, minority students, students who are English language learners. Compiling this information, he said, meant that schools couldn’t ignore these subgroups.

He said the new education bill will have adequate measures to ensure accountability. Franken also said there would be incentives to retain science, technical, engineering and math teachers, since they have a higher market value outside of education.

No Child Left Behind, Franken said, set an arbitrary bar of student efficiency and encouraged teachers to concentrate their efforts on students who were just above or below that line and ignore the others. Although he liked the name and concept of No Child Left Behind, the moniker will probably not survive the reforms.

“It was such a dismal failure,” Franken said. “It’s ruined the name.”