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House Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill
 
House Passes ESEA Reauthorization Bill
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August 2013
 
On a party-line 221–207 vote last month, the House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (SSA), legislation reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Two separate ESEA bills—SSA and the Strengthening America’s Schools Act (SASA)—are under consideration in the Senate. Although there is no timetable for SASA in the Senate, Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee advanced the legislation with no Republican support in June.

The differences in the bills (and there are many on specific education policies, as detailed in a New America Foundation comparison) extend to shaping research policy in the Department of Education. Some highlights are included below:

Advanced Research Projects Agency

SASA establishes an Advanced Research Projects Agency within the Department of Education (ARPA-ED). The legislation states that the agency would pursue breakthrough research and development in educational technology to improve achievement for all students. ARPA-ED is not included in the House bill.

Early Learning Research

In establishing Centers of Excellence in Early Childhood, a joint initiative between the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (HHS), the Senate bill would authorize 1% of funds for a research collaborative among the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Administration of Children and Families within HHS, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Tasks of the collaborative would include producing a biennial research plan, supporting early learning research activities, and dissemination. This program is not included in the House bill.

New IES Initiatives

Both bills would establish a National Clearinghouse for English Learning Support and Educational Programs in the IES Education Resources Information Center. One of the larger tasks authorized for this program is to collect and disseminate information on research related to English learners, accountability systems monitoring the progress of English learners, effective practices for meeting the academic and cultural needs of English learners, and effective practices for engaging families and caretakers of English learners.

In addition, the Senate bill establishes a National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented within IES as part of an overall push for the Department of Education to conduct more research on gifted and talented students, particularly in rural and underserved areas. The House bill does not include this language.

IES Evaluation Authority

The Senate bill authorizes IES to evaluate many of the programs embedded in the bill. The House bill reestablishes the National Assessment of Title I to be conducted by the IES director, which is not included in the Senate bill. In addition, the amounts set aside for IES to conduct evaluations differ between the House and the Senate, with the House language providing up to 0.5% and the Senate language allocating between 1% and 3%.

Although both bills require IES to develop a comprehensive evaluation plan, what the House bill proscribes is far beyond the Senate bill. The Student Success Act would require the evaluation plan to be published in the Federal Register for public comment and submitted to the House Education and Workforce and Senate HELP Committees with all comments reviewed by the secretary of education. The House bill does not speak to the science behind the evaluations, but the Senate specifies that IES use “impact evaluations that employ experimental or quasi-experimental designs, where practical and appropriate, and other rigorous methodologies that permit the strongest possible causal inferences.”

 
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