Skip to Content

Letter on Murphy #2241 Amendment to S. 1177

July 14, 2015

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, and as a follow-up to our letter on the underlying bill, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), we urge you to VOTE NO on amendment 2241 offered by Senators Murphy (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Warren (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ) and Coons (D-DE) expected to be voted on this week. Votes associated with this amendment will be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.

After 13 years of witnessing firsthand the negative consequences that No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all approach to accountability has had on students, our members strongly oppose more of the same. Their in-the-classroom experience of what has and has not worked for students is instructive. Unfortunately, we believe the Murphy amendment would continue the narrow and punitive focus of NCLB and over identify schools in need of improvement, reducing the ability of states to actually target help on schools that need the most assistance to help students.

We support the underlying bill, which represents a paradigm shift where states create a system for evaluating students’ progress and meaningfully differentiate schools using a range of indicators measuring school success or student supports, disaggregated by student subgroups. States must also create a system to monitor and evaluate school district strategies in schools identified for intervention. We believe states should be required to specifically factor subgroup performance into their system of school identification but that overall system should be decided by the state, not the federal government.

We would support a stand-alone amendment that would supplement S. 1177’s multiple indicators system by requiring the states to identify the bottom 5% of all schools within their states and identify high schools with lower than 67% graduation rates, but we do not agree with the proposal to automatically identify all schools for intervention who miss or narrowly miss subgroup targets for two year or the other changes in the Murphy amendment for reasons outlined below.

The Murphy amendment undermines the bill’s multiple indicator system and introduces new ways for schools to be deemed failing. It fundamentally changes the accountability system to focus more on goals in federally-mandated areas instead of judging schools on a range of indicators.  Our members are deeply concerned the amendment would mark an entire school for intervention if a single subgroup misses goals for two consecutive years – precisely the approach that misidentified schools under the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) provision of NCLB. That approach is one the U.S. Department of Education has criticized for “creat[ing] dozens of ways for schools to fail and very few ways to help them succeed.” And, in the real-world environment of limited resources where states have inadequate capacity already, it risks diminishing states’ ability to make decisions about providing necessary supports to truly low-performing schools in order to help students most in need.

The Murphy amendment also would allow any Secretary of Education – Democrat or Republican – to set the percentage by which tests count in a state’s accountability plan, thus removing the flexibility in the underlying bill to create accountability plans that are tailored to meet the needs of students in each state.

The reauthorization of ESEA is an opportunity to become smarter and more targeted about supporting low-performing schools so that students most in need receive the help they deserve.

S. 1177 takes important steps to eliminate the one-size-fits-all labeling and intervention system of the flawed NCLB. To preserve those crucial advances, we urge you to VOTE NO on amendment 2241.

Sincerely,Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations