Understanding the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

quote-Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-shallow-understanding-from-people-of-good-will-100792_1Does Congress know enough about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to do justice to its reauthorization?

This law is NOT an economic or labor force development law!

Proceeding without understanding is WRONG! STOP Congress NOW!

The following statements of understanding are what Congress needs to understand in order to comprehend why the People’s Alternative ESEA is a better way to address replacing No Child Left Behind. These statements are directly out of the DRAFT alternative.

Congress understands that—

(i) every year of a child’s education is important;

(ii) every child has potential that should not be wasted; and

(iii) no child should be left behind waiting for Congress to act.

Congress understands the following —

(i) assessment of what a school needs in order to provide quality learning opportunities must be done within that school; and

(ii) an improvement plan is best developed with the involvement of parents, other members of the community, and the individuals who will carry out the plan to meet the educational needs of all students.

Congress understands that—

in order to set applicable measurable objectives for continuous school improvements and for judging access to learning opportunities, the choice of appropriate assessments, measurements, and other indicators of school quality and improvement must be decided at the local school level with the assistance, support, and supervision of the Local educational agency.

Congress understands the following—

(1) Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools that had persistent cycles of underachievement were deemed to be failing to improve and were required to implement interventions that too many times did not result in significant long-lasting school improvements.

(2) Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver program, states were required to identify the lowest performing five percent of their schools as “Priority Schools.”

(3) All children in Title I Priority Schools are at-risk of being educationally deprived or underserved.

(4) Attention must be directed to both the nature of the content available and to the needs of particular learners, for example, gifted students may need an enriched curriculum while educationally disadvantaged 
students may require special curriculum materials, smaller classes, or individual tutoring.

(5) State’s strategies for ESEA Priority Schools and schools awarded School Improvement Grants (SIG) have produced mixed outcomes with some showing promising results that can be used to guide school improvements such as “school success teams.”

(6) The elements of effective school improvement strategies have been scientifically researched and established with agreement on the most critical ingredient for turning around struggling schools — having skilled leaders capable of leading, guiding and coordinating teams of teachers and other key stakeholders (Success Teams) in the complex school improvement process.

Congress understands that—

“Priority School” staff members are already struggling to try to meet children’s educational needs. They need assistance and support.

Congress understands that—

(1) in order to take struggling schools through an effective improvement process requires that the Nation expand its school leadership capacity; and

(2) a focus on immediate improvement of the effectiveness of leaders in Priority Schools is best met by training experienced principals who have the drive and desire to overcome the challenges and obstacles that exist in our lowest-performing public schools.

Congress understands the following —

  • The focus on test scores in math and language arts under the No Child Left Behind law (ESEA 2001) unintentionally led to a narrowed curriculum most notably in schools already known to be struggling to provide a broad, challenging, high-quality curriculum.
  • The use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been shown to be a valid, reliable, and consistent indicator of achievement gaps using random sampling techniques.

Congress understands the following—

(1) State educational agencies are responsible for ensuring that schools and districts are using federal funds in a manner consistent with the guiding principles and purposes of this title.

(2) Results from School Improvement Grant recipients have demonstrated, and experiences in other arenas confirm, there is value in having outside reviewers make assessments and suggestions.

Congress understands that the role of the Federal government in public education includes—

(1) ensuring equal access to educational opportunities;

(2) working in cooperation with State and Local educational agencies to supplement and complement their efforts to improve the quality of all schools in our nation; and

(3) encouraging the increased involvement of the public, parents, and students in Federal education programs that foster public oversight of their local schools.

Congress understands the following –

Raising standards without ensuring adequate and equitable access to educational resources may, in fact, exacerbate achievement gaps and set children up for failure.

Congress understands that—

To establish continuous improvement processes and elements of effective school improvement practices in the schools that have not been able to do so without extensive, long-term supports, the duration of these grants will be six-years.

Congress understands that—

The use of scientifically evaluated practices for school improvements required under this title necessitates easy access to reliable, relevant, high-quality information.

Congress understands the following—

  • Developing the best methodologies and an efficient system for training, educating, and supporting effective education professionals and staff is fundamental to the national goal of a high-quality education for all individuals and a fair and equal opportunity to obtain that education.
  • The responsibilities of the federal government in education includes promoting improvements through research, the evaluation of that research, and the sharing of information as well as the coordination of existing federal programs.

Congress understands the following—

  • With five percent of schools from every state participating in the effort to provide high-quality, targeted, intensive, and specific education and training to leaders of Priority Schools, the nation has identified an existing national educational need at a magnitude that is best accomplished through the use of our already existing national network of public education institutions and centers.
  • With approximately 83% of teachers teaching in the same school as they did the year before, the nation’s effort to immediately improve instruction for children in classrooms today is best served by offering high-quality continuing educational opportunities to meet the expressed needs of existing education professionals.
  • With an estimated national average counselor-to-student ratio of 457:1 while the recommended caseload is 250:1, the nation obviously needs to become more responsive to the needs of our schools and our nation’s students in a timely fashion.

Congress understands that—

(a) With approximately 4,941 principals leading Priority Schools in this country, “the” Priority Institute must be structured initially as regional summer institutes.

(b) With our land-grant system of colleges and universities as well as other public institutions of higher learning, Regional Educational Laboratories, and Regional Comprehensive Centers, we have the capacity within our nation to serve the educational needs of those wishing to serve our lowest-performing schools.

Congress understands that—

To ensure high-quality education professionals in every classroom in every school requires ensuring continuing improvement of all existing education professionals by ensuring high-quality learning opportunities that meet their specific needs.

Congress understands the following—

(1) There are well-documented regional and national educational workforce shortages particularly in—

(i) rural areas,

(ii) high-needs schools,

(iii) high-demand subjects like math and science,

(iv) special education,

(v) early childhood, and

(vi) “specialized instructional support personnel” meaning school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists and other qualified professional personnel providing other necessary corrective or supportive student services.

(2) To properly fill many of the specific needs the nation faces with appropriately trained and educated individuals would require educators and other qualified individuals seeking specialty or advanced certification to engage in full-time study, which very few can afford to do without assistance.

Congress understands the following—

  • The continuing education of teachers and staff is best accomplished by providing quality, relevant learning opportunities that meet their individual and specific needs based on the identified needs of the school, district, and state.
  • Federal support can improve the effort to provide equal access to quality learning opportunities for all school personnel through its already existing facilities designed for research, development, and dissemination of research findings.

Congress understands the following —

  • There will always be a need for recruitment of candidates for school leadership positions, teachers, counselors, and other specialized instructional support personnel.
  • Ultimately, school recruitment is best done through local adult education facilities and the K-12 education system in cooperation with parents.
  • Recruitment for education professionals and staff can be supported at the federal level by making information about opportunities readily accessible.

Congress—

  • recognizes that by offering access to educational materials a library provides invaluable human and material community resources;
  • acknowledges that in low-income communities, particularly in low-income states, federal aid for supplementary educational services may be required to provide student supports not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement; and
  • accepts the responsibility to provide aid where it has been demonstrated that high-poverty rates and chronically low-performing schools exist.

Congress understands that—

(1) fulfillment of the expectations for school improvement set by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act are dependent upon scientifically researched findings of the best practices in education, knowledge of the ideal recommendations for staffing and equipping schools, and the ability of people to put research into practice; and

(2) a primary function of the Department of Education is to promote improvements through research, analysis, and effectively sharing information.

Congress understands that—

(1) public education is a state and local responsibility with an historically-demonstrated need for national monitoring and support; and

(2) each State can only meet its responsibility of ensure equal access to excellent education through a strong and responsive State department of education.

Congress understands that—

(1) the nation goal of offering equal opportunity cannot be accomplished without an appraisal of the entire range of educational problems; and

(2) selective application of Federal aid is best aimed at strengthening the independence of existing school systems to support them in meeting their most urgent education problems and objectives.

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