Fixing ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act previously called No Child Left Behind – NCLB – is now called the Every Student Succeeds Act – ESSA). The name has changed; the problems with the law have not.
CONSIDER the original goal of ESEA: To strengthen and improve educational quality and educational opportunities. Now the law aims to close the achievement gap through accountability, flexibility, and choice. THAT is what is wrong and can’t be fixed.
UPDATE: What was the “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act” when this was written became the “Every Child Achieves Act” (S. 1177) with the House version called the “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5). These became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and it has replaced NCLB as the law of the land. All of these bills, and now the law, have the same selling points and objectionable elements.******No Child Left Behind WAS NOT fixed by congress and President Obama.
*More state and local control Details: Transfers from Washington to states decisions about measuring student achievement, fixing underperforming schools, and whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing. Plans require approval.
Consider—IF a yearly mandate remains in place at the federal level (telling states they must do yearly standardized testing), then the biggest flaw of NCLB stays in place. It doesn’t matter if it is under state or local control; yearly testing is still being mandated from the federal level.
*No National School Board mandates Details: Makes clear that the U.S. Education Secretary’s waiver authority is led by state requests for flexibility, and is not an excuse to impose more federal mandates. “Waiver authority” is not removed.
Consider—The approval process goes through the Secretary’s office continuing to give authority and dollars to maintain a federal “accountability system” for all school children. This a clear overstep by the federal government in that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act originally was to stay focused on children from low-income families. It was one anti-poverty law. It was a civil rights issue. It was an equal access issue. It was an “opportunity to learn” law not a national “accountability” law.
*High standards and quality tests Details: States, not Washington, will define high standards and tests for students in reading, math and science.
Consider—We need to bring the standards and testing movement to a halt! The National Assessment of Educational Progress monitors achievement gaps along with other indicators. If anything, the nation needs to improve the indicators they have for monitoring equal educational opportunity, not yearly test scores that do not indicate the quality of learning opportunities or access to them.
*More school choices for low-income parents Details: Allows states to use $14.5 billion in Title I funds for low-income children to follow those children to the public school they attend—ending a formula that diverted those funds to schools serving wealthier families.
Consider—This is where there should have been true “accountability” all along! Title I funds should have always focused on low-income CHILDREN and an accounting of their use in addressing the targeted children’s needs would have been a true accountability mechanism. It should stay formula funded and refocused on what “the targeted children” require to be ready to learn and to create a better learning environment for them.
*More freedom for teachers and principals Details: Encourages charter schools, which give teachers and school leaders more freedom to use their own good judgment about how to teach.
Consider—There is absolutely no solid research upon which to base this assumption or decision! Federal law should not be the tool for corporate profit or the tool for parental whims. If a community finds their educational needs are not being met, a magnet school is a public option with a public process in place to ensure accountability to local taxpayers. If the law still followed the original intent, there would be no justification for mentioning charters let alone being in the charter business.
*Encourage teacher evaluations Details: Ends federal definitions of “highly qualified teachers” and encourages states to use its share of $2.5 billion in federal Title II funds to create teacher evaluation systems related to student performance and other factors.
Consider: Title II originally designating funds for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials essential to offering quality learning opportunities. As it is now under NCLB, it failed. Title II needs to go back to the drawing board and back to the suggestions of President Kennedy on improvement of teacher preparation and continuing education.
*Flexibility in spending federal funds Details: Consolidates 62 programs authorized in No Child Left Behind into two block grants and gives states more flexibility in spending education dollars.
Consider: Whoa! Time for a review not just consolidation followed by granting programs! Formula funding to meet the needs of educationally-deprived children must finally take precedence over grant programs that eat up money in administrative costs.
*Secretary’s report cards Details: Continues state and district report cards on schools from No Child Left Behind and creates an annual Secretary’s report card on the nation’s schools.
Consider: With the proper “indicators” in place, this could finally mean something to the nation. It could mean finally moving forward on access to quality learning opportunities for all children.
Throughout the decades solutions have been offered but not heard.
Fact: Bill Gates and the other billionaires have spent a whole lot of money to support the tests. The grants have already been distributed and much of the money spent. Consider the wide range of organizations that received money – Chamber of Commerce, PTA, teacher organizations, and more. Gates and Co. used cash to get support and they will maintain support for ESEA. Add to that, Senator Alexander was the reform governor of Tennessee.
Given those odds, who wants to bet on the status quo?
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” So – we have a choice. Do we give up and let the moneyed and powerful and their bought minions win? OR Do we engage the grassroots to the last blade of grass?
Unless WE do something, the ONLY way HELP will truly come is if we bring it, bring it hard, and keep on coming. But we have to do it NOW! FixNCLB@help.senate.gov
Yes, we do.
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