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Alan F.
Democrat MN

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  • Student Success Act—Conference Report—Continued

    by Senator Al Franken

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    FRANKEN. Mr. President, we have been living under No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, for 13 years, and during that time we have learned what about NCLB works and a lot more about what doesn't work. Students, teachers, and parents across the country have been waiting for a long time for us to fix this law. As a member of the ESEA conference committee, I am proud to work on the legislation before us today, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and to have helped to get it this far. I thank Representatives John Kline and Bobby Scott and Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray for building the bipartisan foundation that got this bill done and will help to reform our national education system.

    The bill, of course, is not perfect, but it is a huge improvement over NCLB. Over the last 13 years, we learned that the one-size-fits- all approach to fixing failing schools just wasn't working. That is why this bill is designed to find a balance between giving States more flexibility while at the same time still making sure States intervene and fix schools where students are not learning.

    Over the last several years, starting when I got here, I have met with principals, teachers, students, parents, school superintendents, and other school administrators in Minnesota. These conversations have helped me to develop my education priorities to help improve our schools, our communities, and our Nation's future because that is what this is about. I worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground.

    I am pleased that many of my priorities to improve student outcomes and close the achievement gap are reflected in the legislation that is before us today. These priorities include things such as strengthening STEM education, expanding student mental health services, increasing access to courses that help high school students earn college credit, and improving the preparation and recruitment of principals for high- need schools.

    I also successfully fought to renew the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program, which provides critical afterschool learning activities for students.

    Another one of my priorities helps increase the number of counselors and social workers in our schools.

    My provision to allow States to use computer adaptive tests will go a long way toward improving the quality of assessments used in our schools, will give teachers and parents more accurate and timely information on their students' progress, and will measure their growth instead of what NCLB did. In the beginning, NCLB just measured the percentage of kids who exceeded a certain arbitrary line of proficiency. This will measure every kid and how far they have come because I always thought that a sixth grade teacher who takes a kid from a third grade level of reading to a fifth grade level of reading is a hero and not a goat, as that teacher was in No Child Left Behind.

    I was also able to include a new Native language immersion program because I believe language is critical to maintaining cultural heritage and helping Native American students succeed.

    In addition, I wrote a provision to provide foster children who get new foster parents to stay in their same school district, when that is in their best interest, and not have to move to another school because very often the one essential and stable thing in their lives as foster children is their friends and teachers at school.

    I am very pleased that these priorities have been included in the legislation we are considering today, and I thank my colleagues for working with me on them. These provisions will help hundreds of thousands of students in Minnesota and millions of students across the country reach their full potential.

    At the same time, I do have to express my deep disappointment that my measure to help protect LGBT students from bullying and discrimination was not included in the final bill. I will keep fighting to get this critical measure passed into law because I think it is our responsibility here in the Senate, as adults, to protect children.

    Finally, I want to note that the Every Student Succeeds Act makes critical investments in early childhood education, which has been a priority of mine for a long time. A quality early childhood education doesn't just start kids off on the right foot, it is also good for our budget. Study after study has shown that for every $1 we spend, we get up to $16 back in the long run. A kid who has had a quality early childhood education is less likely to be in special education, less likely to be left back a grade, and has better health outcomes. The girls are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and get a good job so they can pay taxes, and are much less likely to go to prison. That is why it is such a great investment. It is also a great investment because a 3-year-old child is a beautiful thing.

    After working on a bill to replace NCLB for years, I am very pleased that we have gotten this reform effort finished. I thank my dedicated staff, both present and past, who has worked hard to move education priorities forward--Sherry Lachman, Amanda Beaumont, Gohar Sedighi.

    Thanks, Gohar.

    Once the President signs the Every Student Succeeds Act into law, I look forward to making sure the new law is implemented in a way that will benefit students, teachers, and parents in Minnesota.

    I thank the Presiding Officer.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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