As the Senate debates the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind act, Senator Lisa Murkowski has put forth two bills intended to better serve Alaskan students. One bill, known as the Educational Accountability and State Flexibility Act places more power in the hands of states. Instead of the federal government, individual states would be responsible for to determine each school’s level of success based on broad parameters.
States would diagnose why a school is not improving and apply locally-appropriate fixes—instead of the federal “school turnaround model.”
A focus in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Wednesday was the distinction of rural communities through an amendment to create a new Office of Rural Education. Murkowski spoke to the need to have better rural representation.
"What I would hope is that within the Department of Education that we have individuals that are truly from rural areas, not people who live in the city, work in the city and raise their kids in the city and make policy, hoping that it’s not going to negatively impact our students and schools in rural areas," said Murkowski.
Murkowski expressed concern about centralizing power in Washington and funding the office. Her second bill changes the national dropout program to direct grants to states and school districts with the highest dropout rates. This money would fund prevention activities and attempt to identify students early, as soon as pre-K.
Alaska was one of more than 30 states that received a waiver for NCLB this year. That waiver gives Alaska the chance to use its accountability system, setting a goal to reduce non proficiency by half over 6 years.
Instead of just focusing on math and reading proficiency tests, it considers things like attendance, students who take the SAT, and the annual improvements. And instead of passing or failing, schools will get star ratings.