Education Lessons JFK Left Behind

100 years after the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and with his birthday falling on Memorial Day, it seems fitting to look back in tribute at the education lessons JFK left behind.

President Kennedy recognized that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems. It requires skilled manpower and brainpower to match the power of totalitarian discipline. It requires a scientific effort which demonstrates the superiority of freedom. And it requires an electorate in every state with sufficiently broad horizons and sufficient maturity of judgment to guide this nation safely through whatever lies ahead.”

Final Special Message to the Congress on Education, January 29, 1963

Today, are this nation’s needs any different than when JFK made his proposals to congress?

In 1961, Kennedy’s first appeal to Congress on behalf of public schools was for support of his “twin goals”:

“a new standard of excellence in education and the availability of such excellence to all who are willing and able to pursue it.”

By April 11, 1965, over two years after JFK’s assassination, his “twin goals” became the aim of national education policy when President Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA),

An Act

“To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities in the Nation’s elementary and secondary schools.” 

Kennedy emphasized the need to address “depressed areas” and “slum neighborhoods” where children are known to have: poor diets, unaddressed speech, dental and visual disorders, and where older students are in need of job guidance and proper recreational activities.

The first titles of ESEA addressed Kennedy’s concerns for a spectrum of disadvantages:

Title IEducation of Children of Low Income Families to provide financial assistance to support educationally-deprived children.

Title IISchool Library Resources, Textbooks, and Other Instructional Materials to provide for access to educational materials for all students in the State.

Title IIISupplementary Educational Centers and Services to provide services not currently offered but deemed vital to educational improvement made available to the entire community.

Kennedy stressed that unlike in the health and agricultural fields where they “have established the worth of systematic research and development,”

the education profession “lags behind in utilizing the results of research.”

To remedy the problem;

Title IVEducational Research and Training; Cooperative Research Act to provide research, training, and dissemination of information aimed at improving the quality of teaching.

With variability in quality and access between the states recognized as a problem, ESEA’s last title clarified the intent of federal education law.

Title VState Departments of Education aimed to stimulate and assist in strengthening the leadership resources of State educational agencies.

In each education-focused special message to Congress, JFK expounded further and further on how he saw the proper federal role. He declared,

“Let us put to rest the unfounded fears that ‘Federal money means Federal control.’” And he held up the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing the Land-Grant College system), and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 as examples where “the Congress has repeatedly recognized its responsibility to strengthen our educational system without weakening local responsibility.”

And the 35-page law, the 1965 ESEA, was completed with a statement limiting the boundaries of federal power:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

With the passage of ESEA, the major ideas that Kennedy and his advisers believed would strengthen and improve public schools were preserved — temporarily.

Today, both our federal boundaries and guiding principles are unclear.

So in memorial of President Kennedy’s birthday, May 29, 1917, let us recall how he wished to succeed in improving and strengthening educational opportunities for all the nation’s children.

Acknowledging that the quality of the students depends on…

“both the quality and the relative quantity of teachers and facilities,”

he emphasized class size, teachers’ salaries, and adequate classrooms as common problems particularly in need of assistance in states with limited financial resources.

Focusing on teachers, JFK felt…

our immediate concern should be to afford them every possible opportunity to improve their professional skills and their command of the subjects they teach.”

He believed “teachers would profit from a full year of full-time study in their subject-matter fields. Very few can afford to do so.” The funding then proposed was to “begin to make such opportunities available to the elementary and secondary school teachers of this country and thereby accord to this profession the support, prestige and recognition it deserves.”

And quoting Thomas Jefferson,

Let us keep our eye steadily on the whole system,

Kennedy asked that his final education proposal “be considered as a whole, as a combination of elements designed to solve problems that have no single solution.”

The nations’ goals were to be met “on the basis of three fundamental guidelines:

  1. An appraisal of the entire range of educational problems…;
  2. A selective application of Federal aid – aimed at strengthening, not weakening, the independence of existing school systems and aimed at meeting our most urgent education problems and objectives…; and
  3. More effective implementation of existing laws…”

To honor limited federal involvement in education, the “appraisal” is a necessary first step because,…

federal “participation should be selective, stimulative and, where possible, transitional” and “the proper Federal role is to identify national education goals and to help local, state and private authorities build the necessary roads to reach those goals.”

Today, we will only be able to finish building the necessary roads by first removing the roadblocks.

We must look back and recognize that our country

“requires a citizenry that understands our principles and problems.”

Do citizens clearly understand the problems?

Are we standing on the right education reform principles?

Did “we” change our goals?

Improving schools requires we understand the problems, understand the principles, and set the right goals. That is the lesson left behind.

Consider this. President Kennedy’s twin goals were a force that led our nation well for decades. But the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) over many more decades has taken us further from meeting those twin goals of quality and equality.

Congress lost its footing. They overstepped. And they landed on a very slippery slope.

In 1965, it was JFK’s twin goals that LBJ ushered into this law.

Title I funds clearly were part of the War on Poverty.

The 1994 Clinton administration introduced “other purposes” — unchecked.

Those “other purposes” included basing the “quality” of education and access to it firmly upon standards and the tests associated with those standards. School Choice Programs were put in under Title I. Transportation costs were not included.

By the 2001 Bush administration, the whole law (NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND) was clearly Outcome-Based with accountability for all schools under federal control, flexibility with spending our federal dollars out of control, and school choice included in a variety of places. It was in sections under parental involvement, accountability, and supplemental services. The funding to assess transportation costs as well as picking up that cost in certain cases were included.

This is what NCLB Title I said ( “disadvantaged” ) but NCLB clearly had all public schools march to the same drummer – standards and testing – one-size-fits-all.

In a last-minute rush, the 2015 Obama administration signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law was renamed so many times in the year preceding the push that the public couldn’t keep up and the writers wrote “achieves” instead of “succeeds” in the final version. ESSA is not what the public was told it would be.

Title I officially has the federal government involved in the basic programs of all schools still based on the principles of NCLB with a ramping up of school choice at every turn, including pre-K charters, with the Secretary of Education given more power to start-up charters as well as providing the first year of transportation costs.

Don’t you think its time we all took a step back, stopped the federal overreach, and corrected the mistakes that have been made?

The education lessons JFK left behind for this nation provides us solid ground upon which to stand. That platform was built where practical knowledge of improvement practices met the need for equal access under the law.

I hope more of you will make the time to read and contemplate President Kennedy’s three messages to Congress on education (the only links in this blog). All real reformers should stand on the solid principles they provide before continuing to fight in the American education reform wars. That war is currently dividing the nation along ideological and political lines while allowing the dismantling of a longstanding system that served us well.

Let us read, understand, remember, and use the education lessons JFK left behind.

Is Education a National Issue?

Education is not mentioned in the Constitution…. We have heard how this argument goes.Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.57.46 AM

Because of no specific mention of education, the responsibility for educating the young people of our republic is deferred to the States in the 10th Amendment …. with the caveat “or to the people.”

People, you need to decide. Is public education a national issue?

If we never have that discussion, then we never examine the arguments that have been stalling our progress in education reform for the last three decades.

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And, we must look back at the historical precedents surrounding the issue of federal support for public education.

How do we make informed decisions without this conversation?

 

State versus Federal: Are we sure we should be fighting that battle?

The Constitution doesn’t mention a whole lot of things — by design.

“The original Constitution of 1788 contained very few specific restrictions on the ways in which the power of the national government could be exercised against the people.”

And,..

“…the state delegations at the Constitutional Convention voted 10-0 against including a bill of rights in the Constitution.”

One reason they gave for being against such specific rights being in this governing document is

“…any list of rights would be incomplete. Such a list might indirectly endanger any rights not included on it.”

the-preamble-to-the-united-states-constitution-sourceThat is really something to think about. Has the argument over State versus Federal law governing education actually endangered the general Welfare of the children in our nation?

The 10th Amendment …

“— emphasizes that … the fundamental character of the national government… remains a government of limited and enumerated powers, so that the first question involving an exercise of federal power is not whether it violates someone’s rights, but whether it exceeds the national government’s enumerated powers.”

Note in that quote that the authors interchange the words “national” and “federal.” Unfortunately — but fortunately for the country — the Founding Fathers understood the differences, chose to make our constitution a unique blend of those concepts, but it appears they made the assumption that our representatives (and the populous) would forever understand and make distinction between the two concepts. For example…

From blog post titled "Fixing Our national Accountability System: Part 1."

From blog post titled “Fixing Our National Accountability System: Part 1.”

The Founding Fathers seemed to have also assumed that there would always be open debate and deliberation especially in the Senate.…anyway….

Let’s consider how our predecessors sorted things out when confronted with issues concerning education. Starting pre-Constitution…

1784 — Land Ordinance — This was outlined by Thomas Jefferson while we were still floundering under the Articles of Confederation because “Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation. Therefore, the immediate goal of the ordinance was to raise money through the sale of land…”

“The ordinance was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Many schools today are still located in section sixteen of their respective townships…”

Education was a national issue then.

1787 —September 17— the Constitution was signed.

1789 — President George Washington signed the Northwest Ordinance, which established (among other things) “the precedent by which the federal government would be sovereign,” it designated “prohibition of slavery” in the [new] territories, and it stated (Art. 3) that “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Under our new constitution and through the Northwest Ordinance, our new nation made a statement of national support for education and its importance as well as inching us ALL towards individual freedom and equal opportunity.

1841/1848 — Congress made grants of land to support public education.

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here?

The History Of Federal Government In Public Education: Where Have We Been And How Did We Get Here? League of Women Voters

Education remained a national issue.

1862 — The First Morrill Act (Land Grant Act) was passed granting public lands to support one college per state for specific purposes.

1867 — Original “Office” of Education was established and, in 1890, the Second Morrill Act “gave the Office of Education responsibility for administering support for the original system of land-grant colleges.”

Obviously, there is a pattern of federal support for public education and many more laws followed that have supported educating the nation —very well. (Don’t forget the GI Bill.)

What is missing in kicking off a national conversation now is what John F. Kennedy was very careful to discuss when he proposed the ideas behind what became the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. Can the federal government give aid to the nations’ public schools without exerting “control” over them? The answer is yes.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy - in law.

President Johnson was left to answer for President Kennedy – in the 1965 ESEA law.

What do our representatives and political candidates now have to say about the proper role of the federal government in education? Can they even tell you what was wrong with NCLB? After all these years, do they have anything specific to say about correcting their mistake? Do they not see how they crossed the line into federal CONTROL versus SUPPORT?

Today, the public is accepting the idea that if politicians say “I support universal preschool” or “community college should be free” that it means they care about supporting the K-12 public education system. That isn’t the case.

K-12 education is the playing field best positioned to offer all kids a chance to explore and fulfill their personal potential. The long-term benefits of preschool without K-3 improvements is still debatable. And, should we really be investing in free community college to make up for what we didn’t do in K-12? How efficient is that?

Did you know we have never provided the funding requested for K-12 disadvantaged students through ESEA Title I? Where’s that conversation taking place?

When the federal policy of the last 15 years undermines the very foundation of K-12 public education — like No Child Left Behind has, does, and continues to do eight years after it should have gone away — that says the lawmakers don’t care.

When the country doesn’t push for the right supports for educating children, what does that say about us?

Grow the vision or let it go?

Grow the vision or let it go?

No deliberation, no debate, no demands, no progress.

End of the road for real national support for public education? Or time to raise the issue to a new level?

According to the 10th Amendment, the people have the power.

Informed Citizens

For our republic to survive and prosper, informed citizens are vital. This fact was acknowledged long ago.Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 9.39.15 PM And as time has marched forward, there has been a notable commonality among U.S. presidents that dissemination of information is an essential national service. Education matters. The question has always been; how do we do it?index

With the civil war raging, President Lincoln answered in 1862 by signing the Morrill Act establishing the land-grant college system. He said at the time:

“The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support and their confidence.”

Fifty-two years later, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act that established the cooperative extension system for disseminating practical applications of research findings from the land-grant colleges to the people who needed the education.

President after president has acknowledged the success of that dual system including President Ronald Reagan as quoted in A Nation at Risk.

“The American educational system has responded to previous challenges with remarkable success. In the 19th century our land-grant colleges and universities provided the research and training that developed our Nation’s natural resources and the rich agricultural bounty of the American farm.”

So, I personally am left wondering if President Reagan was unaware of the intention by President Johnson upon the advice of many, including his secretary of health education and welfare John W. Gardner, to model educational and community improvement after our successful programs in agricultural education.

In July 1964, John W. Gardner, then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, headed a presidential task force that proposed establishment of the RELs [regional educational laboratories] as a vital link to interpret, shape, and communicate the centers’ research findings; tailor them for practical school use; and infuse them into the nation’s classrooms, including college classrooms.”

So as President Johnson set out to address the issues of poverty simultaneously with those of the education system, he saw the need to provide services for children that would “be adapted to meet the pressing needs of each locality.” He urged that we “draw upon the unique and invaluable resources of our great universities to deal with national problems of poverty and community development.” And it was envisioned that the university extension system could help the people to help themselves.Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.40.32 PM

 

Dissemination of information was seen as essential to improvement.

 

As envisioned by the main architect of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Francis Keppel, a network of regional educational laboratories was written into law. As Keppel expressed, they were “designed to serve education much as the agricultural experiment centers long served and stimulated the development of agriculture.”

He felt this would bring together schools and school systems, link proposal to practice, to provide “a missing link that is in good part responsible for education’s reputation for resistance to innovation.”

Today we have ten regional educational laboratories, but they are not serving as originally intended because their marching orders have changed with the changing of ESEA.

During the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, the centers and laboratories were intended to be a network of institutions designed to revitalize American education through strategic research, development, and dissemination of new programs and processes. Since their inception, such external issues as the federal role in education and the allocation of funding, along with such internal issues as the challenge of applying research to real-world school settings, have significantly affected the mission and operation of these institutions.”

But despite all the changes and difficulties, the regional educational laboratories have put out some excellent research. However, the goal of forming a network to freely disseminate information and assist in training at the local level was never fully realized and has left us with pockets of schools in need of improvement but without the knowledge and skills to do so. We say they “lack the capacity” to improve.

The regional educational laboratories were intended to provide practical solutions to the issues facing schools. They were to serve as the bedrock of excellence. The information they provided was then to be disseminated to the schools and the general public— free of charge, for the most part. They would be supported by the public system. Flow of information needed to be in both directions ensuring that researchers were addressing what the stakeholders needed to know and be able to do.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.55.17 AM

When financial support for public research institutions is cut and private interests start picking up the tab, the integrity of research is potentially compromised. At what cost?

We currently have the system backwards — top-down, outcome-based, data-driven instead of student-focused, needs-driven local improvement.

General diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of information continues to be a recognized problem.

As President Carter established the U. S. Department of Education in 1979, the importance of dissemination of research findings was written into the purposes of the department with a few little words— to “share information” (#4).

Diffusion of knowledge, dissemination of research findings, sharing information — whatever we call it — the concept once held such importance that it had its own title in ESEA.Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 11.58.26 AM We once understood the significance of a national system for providing affordable practical education, doing basic unbiased research, and sharing practical, useful information for improvement purposes. And it worked!

Land-grant campuses collectively enroll more than 4.6 million students and have 645,000 faculty members. They conduct two-thirds of the nation’s academic research and charge a third as much as comparable private universities, even after years of price increases.”

…. “If a Congress fighting a civil war could pass the Morrill Act, I don’t think the fact that, today, Washington is so divided should stop us from recommitting to it [the land-grant system].”

Preserving, strengthening, and improving this part of the system is essential to K-12 improvement…And it is not clear from either the House or Senate versions for ESEA reauthorization that Congress sees the importance in dissemination of information and its significance in cultivating an informed citizenry. #DoSomething

Tell Congress to go back to the drawing board NOW! This country has waited way too long to end No Child Left Behind and get back to a law that works for US!

Distinguishing Truth from Deception

Public education in America is at risk as long as mass deception can continue unchecked.

When it comes to education policies and the organizations and individuals pushing their agendas into law, the public is ill-equipped to distinguish truth from deception because of a long history of misinterpretation of statistics, massive misinformation, and outright political deception.

Truth: Schools must continuously be improving themselves.

That truth is based on the premise that the public education system faces ever-changing obstacles to offering equal educational opportunities — changing student populations, changing demographics of the students, turnover of school personnel, and a multitude of variables are demanding schools be responsive to societal pressures of all kinds. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.15.21 AM

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Truth: The public schools have made progress despite economic and political upheaval. Notable improvements were made in the 70’s through 90’s and is continuing but at a slowed pace.

 

Truth: Current education reform policies are based on deception.

Education reform became a problem when politicians took the reins and their driving premise required deception. As Douglass Cater, an adviser to President Johnson, explained,

“I think one of the major problems of politics is that [it] takes a fairly recognized crisis before the government is able to come to grips with …a problem in a policy area…”

Plus, there was fear that the general public would not stay involved in public school improvement unless there was an urgent need – a crisis. But this line of reasoning is no excuse for the mass deception that followed.

Policymakers of the 80’s moved forward with half-truths to put in motion an ideologically driven education reform agenda — standards, testing, and accountability based on achievement tests — the outcome-based theory that we can judge schools based on test scores.

And because the theory was intentionally marketed and the lies repeated so often, the deception became the public’s truth. Repeatedly, we acted on that “truth.”

So briefly, here’s how we Americans allowed ourselves to be deceived. Keep in mind, the public education system tends to be a reflection of society. A brief history of “the times” is necessary.

  • “The 1960s were years of protest and reform.”… people worked together for social improvement particularly for minorities, the poor, and women.
  • “The period of change came during the 1970s…an economic recession. Interest rates and inflation were high. There was a shortage of imported oil.”
  • “As the 1970s moved toward the 1980s, Americans became tired of social struggle…many wanted to spend more time on their own personal interests…It affected popular culture, education, and politics.”
  • “The 1980s were called the Reagan years, because he was president for eight of them….the recession ended….[creating] “the ‘me’ generation” and “yuppies”. Both these groups seemed as if they lived just to make and spend money, money, and more money.”

With the mentality of the 80’s firmly focused on making money, public institutions reflecting society, and “the origins of the standards movement in American education [being] largely economic,” the idea of standards and testing as a quick way to judge schools was an easy sell to busy parents.

Deception: Standardized test scores accurately judge the quality of education.

The problem is, standardized tests were NEVER proven to be a great judge of quality education and our standards were NEVER proven to be the main problem. That’s where the deception comes in — over the two major factors upon which we now base not only accountability of the system, but also our theory of improvement. And we continue to ignore real solutions.

Deception: Test scores should be used to compare and rank schools.

To understand the ruse behind the misuse of test scores, you have to understand Simpson’s paradox. Like most of you, I am not a statistician so don’t let this scare you off. Basically, this paradox can happen when comparing two or more groups. A statistical trend may reverse or disappear when the groups are combined. At a glance, it is very counter-intuitive but is one reason why statistics are so susceptible to misuse and abuse.

So when we look at combined scores or average scores, we can follow trends but it is not advisable to base decisions on scores alone without further analysis and interpretation.

Deception: Based on test scores, the United States is failing educationally and it will require us to totally transform the system.

The country set course on the outcome-based theory without being fully informed. Politicians told us after the release of A Nation At Risk, in 1983, that we were falling far behind internationally. But, international scores are reported as combined numbers leaving the public unable to detect any deceptive use of those numbers…unable to think through the effect that Simpson’s paradox might be having on our conclusions and therefore our actions.

At one point, we could have stopped this. In 1991, Sandia National Laboratories scientists took on the analysis of education data and they interpreted what they saw in addition to critiquing proposed education policies. Apparently, politicians didn’t like what these researchers had to say.

On our reported decline in SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores, researchers said…

“More people in America are aspiring to achieve a college education than ever before, so the national SAT average is lowered as more students in the 3rd and 4th quartiles of their high school classes take the test. This phenomenon, known as Simpson’s paradox…”

So we need to understand the story behind all numbers. We need to ask, “WHY”? And we need to understand the effect of poverty on our education statistics.Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 10.40.42 PMThis is not to say we can’t do more to educate children of poverty. This is to point out how deceptive numbers can be and to ask the question, have our reforms focused on the right things?

On our international test scores, Sandia researchers said,…

“The major differences in education systems and cultures across countries diminish the value of these single-point comparisons.”

In other words, international scores should not hold great significance in our decision-making and now would be the time to question why we are allowing the United States education system to be standardized through international “benchmarking.”

Why would we do that when the truth is…

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 10.18.18 AM

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries can be seen here.

This information is from The Condition of Education 2015. Why isn’t the media reporting on the actual condition of education? Why isn’t Congress and the president basing decisions on the truth?

The truths revealed in the Sandia Report never got public attention through either our government or media so the deception of statistics rolled on for decades.

“Seldom in the course of policymaking in the U.S. have so many firm convictions held by so many been based on so little convincing proof.” Clark Kerr, President Emeritus, University of California

Truth: The varying quality of state standards and assessments does not correlate with student achievement as judge by our nation’s gold standard of tests, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The blue dots represent NAEP scores with Basic meaning meets “grade-level expectations” or “C” level work. The red squares represent the "rigor" of each states standards as compared to NAEP. Student achievement does not appear to depend on the rigor of a states standards and assessments. Information supplied by NAEP expert, Bert Stoneberg.

The blue dots represent NAEP scores with Basic meaning meets “grade-level expectations” or “C” level work. The red squares represent the “rigor” of each states standards assessments as compared to NAEP. Student achievement does not appear to depend on the rigor of a states standards and assessments. Other graphs and explanations are provided by NAEP expert Bert Stoneberg.

If the variability of state standards and assessments do not affect overall student achievement, why are we focusing money, time, and effort on changing standards and tests as THE first step in improvement? It’s the wrong step. It makes no sense.

We were deceived into thinking that standards are all-important. We were deceived into thinking they were crucial to improvement. Truth: Common standards were not identified as necessary in producing effective schools. That research finding has never been disputed and is now once again proven to be true.

Title I & ESEA Reauthorization

Does Congress and President Obama understand how Title I money was meant to be used? Looking at what they have proposed to date, it is a question in need of a good, clear answer.

A requirement in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was that a president-appointed advisory council report yearly to the president. The National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children was to review the laws’ progress with the programs and projects Title I funding supports.

In turn, the president was to report the findings to our Congress along with comments and further recommendations.489596

To do this responsibly and hold our government “accountable,” we all need to understand Title I. Title I is the touchstone of the original ESEA.

The federal formula funding was distributed for assistance of “children of low-income families.” The directive was to address the needs of “educationally deprived children,” which the architects understood would include more than just the low-income children given that the schools where the most funds would flow were “inherently unequal.” Needs are going to vary from community to community but potentially all students in schools in low-income communities are at risk for being underserved.

Title I was to address the disadvantages CHILDREN face — economically, educationally, mentally, or physically “disadvantaged”— that were being ignored, or in some cases created, by state and local agencies.

The goal of ESEA was to provide equal access to quality education — that is how “equal opportunity” was defined.

To do so, we have to recognize the barriers “disadvantaged” students and their families face in our communities, schools, and classrooms and fully address those problems directly. Title I dollars flowed to meet the needs of CHILDREN from low-income families….PERIOD. The other five titles of ESEA addressed the needs of low-income schools, communities, and states.

This is our ESEA history. In 1966, less than a year into ESEA’s implementation, President Johnson received his first report from the Council. They reviewed and summarized the programs. They gave examples including one district reporting that health examinations had been conducted for the first time showing that 45% of the children tested were anemic.

Now, how do we expect these disadvantaged children to have the same standards-based outcomes at the same time as healthy children?

As President Obama expressed in Selma,

“Americans don’t accept a free ride for anyone, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes. But we do expect equal opportunity,…”

To fulfill our duty to America’s children, effective schools must be established in every community where they do not currently exist. Understanding that those communities with the highest concentrations of poverty have children at greatest risk of being educationally underserved, their needs should be our first priority.

At President Obama’s request, we have identified the lowest performing schools throughout our land. It is our responsibility as a nation to support their improvement, as a short-term goal, while providing a long-term strategy to prevent the wide gaps in opportunities, and therefore educational achievement, that we have experienced in our past and that continue to plague our nation’s children today.

In addition to providing the best in educational opportunities to every child, now is the time for a plan that views appropriation of funds as a national strategic educational investment and expects communities to make wise use of all education resources.

And let it be acknowledged that the urgent need of children begs for some emergency measures.

Let us not lose sight of the purposes of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

* To establish equal access to quality education,

* To strengthen and improve all schools.

Here’s the beginning of an alternative a plan to what Congress currently is cooking up:

Title I – Education of Children of Low Income Families to provide formula-funded financial assistance to local education agencies in support of children from low-income families in order expand and improve community efforts to meet their learning needs.

Execution: To address learning needs requires a “needs assessment.” School staff (principals, counselors, aids, and teachers) and parents (or other adults involved in these high-needs children’s lives) will be the first to collectively identify those needs. Those identified needs will then be brought to the attention of the larger group of community stakeholders (civic, non-profit organizations, foundations and concerned individuals) to be further defined, measures for success indicators established, and existing resources in the community identified. “Gaps” in resources will be identified and brought to the attention of state education officials so that no identified need goes unaddressed. State officials will be responsible for identifying their resources and establishing indicators of their success and to continually monitor and report on their ability to meet their responsibility. Needs assessments will be done using the existing government assessment tools.

Emergency measures: Those Title I schools now designated as chronically low-performing or “priority” schools will be guided through the assessment and improvement processes with cooperative funding (“set aside” Title I money) and staff from the state and local districts with a “support team” provided through the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools identified as chronically low-performing need strong, effective, democratic leadership to take these schools through a successful school improvement process. A federal leadership program (Academy) will be

“designed to enable people who are already experienced principals and other school leaders, knowledgeable about how schools work and the special problems they face, to learn how to turn around the expectations, beliefs and practices of school stakeholders in low-performing schools. The expected focus of the Academy would be on how to improve instruction and change schools’ culture” (Ratner, The “Lead Act,” H.R. 5495/S 3469: Briefing Paper).

Accountability: Using the indicators of success as designated for targeted results through the school improvement process, the “appropriate objective measurements” will be used to judge the “effectiveness of the programs in meeting the special educational needs of educationally deprived children.” Local and state officials will have established the parameters (what and how often) of those measurements and will make those facts transparent to the community and state, respectively. An accounting of expenses and results of the uses of Title I money will be reported to federal officials for review. National monitoring of achievement gaps through the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will continue unchanged. Results of progress by the nation and cost /benefits will be reported annually to the President, Congress, and the Nation.

Currently, with ESEA reauthorization discussion being more about a “national accountability system” and “choice,” and less about disadvantaged children, I worry that we have lost our way on the march towards equal educational opportunity.

But then I remember — “WE the People” and the “highest of ideals” that were put into law in 1965 — there is hope.

[The preceding was a modified excerpt from addendum 1 of The Crucial Voice of the People, Past and Present: Education’s Missing Ingredient, second edition, by Victoria M. Young, © 2012]