SALT LAKE CITY -- Promoting the need for reform in education, Representative Rob Bishop recently introduced a piece of legislation that would give states the option to break from a federal standard for education.
Introducing the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS), Bishop proposed a plan to allow states to enter a five-year performance agreement with the U.S. Secretary of Education, which would allow states to address obstacles and challenges in an individualized approach.
The A-PLUS act would give states complete control in improving their education system, tailoring an educational system to the needs of the individual residing within the state, without federal interference.
"Since the federal government got involved in education over 45 years ago with the creation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, there is little evidence to prove that education provided today is any better off now than it was in 1965," Bishop said. "Over nearly five decades schools have gradually lost their autonomy and flexibility to meet the unique needs of their student population."
Education is not something that can be addressed on a one-size- fits-all approach. Right now, federal mandates and regulations are limiting each state's ability to provide innovative reforms necessary to meet diverse educational needs.
A-PLUS would provide states with the option to be exempt from federal programs and mandates; however, they would still be given the opportunity to use federal education funds to provide for an individualized state education plan. As a result, states would not be held to the requirements and guidelines established in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, signed into law by President George W. Bush.
When signed into law, NCLB required all government-run schools receiving federal funding to take part in a state-wide standardized test annually, which would be used to assess the overall quality of each school, grading the schools based on their overall performance. Every year, a school is required to make Adequate Yearly Progress in test scores to meet the rigid requirements.
School's failing to meet NCLB requirements for two consecutive years are labeled as being "in need of improvement," with consequences increasing each year the school fails to make adequate progress.
Lawmakers and educators have seen benefits using standardized tests to measure schools, however, problems have crept in as some schools teach to the test. Test scores improve, but a student's overall knowledge is impacted by a molded lessons revolved around a test.
"Education is not something that can be addressed on a one-size-fits-all approach," Bishop said. "Right now, federal mandates and regulations are limiting each state's ability to provide innovative reforms necessary to meet diverse educational needs."
- Give States and local communities maximum flexibility to determine how to boost academic achievement and implement education reforms
- Reduce the administrative costs and compliance burden of Federal education programs in order to focus Federal resources on improving academic achievement
- Ensure that States and communities are accountable to the public for advancing the academic achievement of all students, especially disadvantaged children
States interested in the performance agreement would be required to get the approval of at least two of three state entities -- the Governor, state legislature and state education agency -- and submit an application to the U.S. Secretary of Education requesting the federal education exemption.
The application process would require a state to describe the accountability system established, provide an assurance that all monies apportioned to the state are controlled with proper accounting procedures and that the state will continue to pursue educational improvements to disadvantaged students.
Furthermore, the performance agreement would require states to "maintain, at a minimum, the same level of challenging State student academic achievement standards and academic assessments throughout the duration of the performance agreement," the bill states. During the five-year performance agreement, states must show an increase in academic performance and achievement.
"The A-PLUS Act would return accountability back to states, school districts, educators and parents. This local control will allow each community to assess and address their unique educational requirements, ensuring that the needs of all students are met," Bishop said. "Maintaining the status quo is failing our children. This legislation would give educators and parents the flexibility necessary to make the changes this country needs."