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ESEA Passes the Senate with Hefty Bipartisan Support

On November 19, for the first time since 2001, the U.S. Senate passed a major rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) otherwise known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the nation’s federal K-12 law, which if enacted would significantly roll back the role of the federal government in public education and give states more flexibility in the process.

Congressional education leaders then completed a 2-day conference process to resolve differences between House- and Senate-passed legislation to rewrite legislation approving a framework, the Every Student Succeeds Act, to reauthorize ESEA. The framework, which represents a compromise between House and Senate-passed bills earlier this year, passed 39-1, revising the nation’s major K-12 education law, which among other things, addresses STEM education issues in several important ways.

Prior to the conference committee meeting last week, civil rights and disability advocates, teachers, and parents from across the country went to Washington, DC, to advocate for a reauthorization that protects children and civil rights–particularly by strengthening accountability, improving data collection, ensuring states close disparities in resources for high-poverty schools, and maintaining sufficient oversight from the U.S. Department of Education. A summary of the ESEA conference framework is available here.

The legislation’s passage in the Senate marks a crucial step in getting a bill to President Obama’s desk. The text of the final bill will be available on November 30. The House is expected take up the bill on December 2 or 3.

What’s in the Agreement for STEM?

Under the framework, science tests will continue and must be given three times between grades 3 and 12. Annual, statewide assessments in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school will also continue.

The Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, along with a number of smaller, targeted programs, would be streamlined into a large new state grants program. Under this new funding structure, districts will be able to choose from a number of allowable uses of funds for educational enrichment activities, including implementing activities such as STEM competitions, increasing access to STEM courses for underrepresented student populations, expanding STEM specialty schools, and promoting hands-on learning.

Replacing the MSP program under Title II of the framework is a provision reserving funding for the Secretary to award grants to State educational agencies to enable them to support the development of statewide STEM master teacher corps and to develop and implement state-wide STEM teacher professional development programs. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, school administrators, and STEM educators.

NAPE is one of more than 70 organizations from around the country who signed onto a joint letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congress’s education committees. Maintaining dedicated STEM education language in the final ESEA bill would not be possible without the support of the greater community working together.  Read letter for STEM funding provisions here

This information is provided in part by Education Week and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.