KnowledgeWorks commends U.S. Senate for ESEA rewrite

Senate's bipartisan rewrite includes 'wins' for competency and early college high schools

Topics: Education Policy

In moving toward a future of education that is equitable and personalized for all students, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is essential to improving the nation’s education and workforce systems.

As a significant next step in ESEA reauthorization, KnowledgeWorks commends the U.S. House of Representatives for advancing the Student Success Act last week and the U.S. Senate for advancing the Every Child Achieves Act with strong bipartisan support today. The Senate bill specifically includes a number of priorities advocated for by KnowledgeWorks including a new innovative assessment pilot program to support competency-based assessments, as well as numerous provisions to expand early college high school options for low-income, first generation college students.

“We are excited, not only with the progress made throughout this reauthorization process, but also with all of the bipartisan support we received from senators for advancing personalized learning through additional flexibility for states to build competency-based assessment systems and expand high-quality pathways to postsecondary success through programs, such as early college high schools,” KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Lillian Pace said. “Bipartisan senate support for these provisions is a big win for everyone working to ensure traditionally underserved students have the opportunity to succeed.”

Specifically, the Senate’s version of ESEA includes an innovative assessment pilot program, which KnowledgeWorks advocated for, that would allow seven states to submit proposals to build and implement next-generation assessment systems aligned to personalized, competency-based systems. States would be allowed to propose their own implementation timeline, so long as the timeline does not exceed five years plus a possible two-year extension.

For a nation wrestling with big questions about how long or how often to assess students, this pilot program would provide important insight into designing assessment systems that advance learning, rather than just validating learning.

“This pilot would help states break down federal policy barriers that impede the implementation of competency education,” KnowledgeWorks Vice President Policy and Advocacy Matt Williams said. “As a long-time advocate for competency-based education, we look forward to working with these leaders and the House of Representatives in conference to make this pilot a reality for states throughout the country.”

KnowledgeWorks commends Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for their work on this pilot program, Williams said.

The Senate version also includes a federal definition for early college high school and dual and concurrent enrollment programs, would require states to develop a plan for how they will transition students from high school to postsecondary including expanding access to early college and dual enrollment programs, and would enable states and districts to use Title I funds to expand these advanced coursework opportunities for low-income, first-generation students. These provisions were championed by a bipartisan group of Senators including Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE).

“Early college high schools can effectively target students at risk of dropping out of high school,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “Federal support for these programs through ESEA reauthorization will help scale this high impact approach to teaching and learning, providing hundreds of thousands of low-income, first-generation students with the opportunity to enroll and graduate from college.”

Since both chambers have successfully advanced ESEA legislation, the process will now head to conference where a committee will work to combine the bills into a single vehicle that must pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the President to become law.

About KnowledgeWorks

KnowledgeWorks is a national nonprofit organization advancing a future of learning that ensures each student graduates ready for what’s next. For 20 years, we’ve been partnering with states, communities and leaders across the country to imagine, build and sustain vibrant learning communities. Through evidence-based practices and a commitment to equitable outcomes, we’re creating the future of learning, together.