The Senate education committee rejected an effort today to change assessments and standards for students with disabilities, as it marked up a bill to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It also debated student achievement goals and turnaround options for schools that fall into the bottom 5 percent of student performance.
Meanwhile, the bill's sponsors, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the committee, and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., reached an agreement with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., so that action on the bill could move forward. Paul withdrew his procedural objections to the legislation and let the committee debate it during normal hours after Harkin and Enzi agreed to hold a hearing on the legislation. That Nov. 8 hearing will take place after the bill is reported out of committee—but before it goes to the Senate floor.
On its second day of markup on the bill, the committee voted 14 to 8 to reject an amendment by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., that would have required that schools spell out how students with disabilities would be assessed under their individualized education programs, or IEPs. That would be a huge change from current law, where just a certain percentage of students in special education can take alternative assessments. Disability advocacy groups were strenuously opposed to the amendment. Isakson said the amendment would ensure that students are assessed appropriately, but Harkin, who has family experience with those with disabilities, worried kids wouldn't be challenged. [emphasis added]