Arne Duncan and others are bragging that both political parties get along when it comes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. It is one big happy family when it comes to education. There was bipartisan agreement over No Child Left Behind too, and look what a colossal disaster that was.
Now, with the reauthorization in full swing, there are groups that are for, groups that are against, and groups that were for, but are now against. And then there is the occasional reminder that ESEA was once meant to help disadvantaged children get a chance to catch up in school. Victoria Young has written a lot about ESEA and it is worth checking the subject out on her blog. Here is one of her posts about it.
I find the ESEA reauthorization ambiguous and difficult to decipher. I just write here about a few concerns. If you want to debate anything, or feel inclined to tell about something I left out, feel free to do so. Much is being written about the reauthorization. But because there is so much confusion, and concern, I support stopping the passage of this bill in its current form. Twitter #StopESEA or #SlowDownESEA and call President Obama at 202-456-1111 and Congress at 202-224-3121/225-3121.
Here are my specific concerns with the reauthorization of ESEA, some of which I derived from Education Week articles, A Summary and Call to Action from the American Superintendent’s Association, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC).
What’s In a Name?
I personally don’t like the name Every Child Achieves Act. It sounds suspiciously like an updated version of No Child Left Behind.
It’s an Improvement but Not Great
There are many involved in education who claim the bill isn’t perfect but it is the best that can be done—the “we need something” excuse. Like Frederick Hess, the director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute, who said, it’s clearly a profound improvement over the status quo and if this does not make it through it’s not like a better, leaner alternative is going to get enacted (Klein. Ed. Week Nov. 13, 2015).
I disagree and so do many others. Why settle on mediocrity or a lousy bill? Why claim it’s the best that can be done when it could be better?
Testing: States and Local School Districts Get their Way
There is much talk about rolling back the federal government’s influence, but one can find plenty of corruption at the state and local levels too. I see no triumph in governors being given more responsibility for school reform. The states have driven draconian testing for years!
Don’t forget who helped bring us Common Core State Standards—the National Governor’s Association! State legislators come and go. Who is putting restrictions on what the states and local school districts do when it is not in the best interest of students?
Getting Rid of “Supersubgroups”
This seems to mean that even more students will have to rise to the accountability levels promoted by the states, and it seems like Common Core is a part of this.
Education Innovation Does Not Always Involve Business Interests
The Innovation talk worries me, because it often refers to supplying businesses with workers. I’m tired of so much business involvement in education. It is way too pervasive and the ultimate goal is privatization.
For the record, in terms of jobs, there are other professions and careers besides working in corporations. Students need preparation for a wide variety of future vocations, and the students themselves should be a big part of determining what it is they like and want to do. Certainly there is a role for the business community, but corporations should not be dictating what public schools should be all about.
Drop-Out Factory Talk
Americans need to quit referring to public schools as drop-out factories! It is unpatriotic and a disgrace. There should be no language in the bill that uses this reference. The reference to drop-out factories in the bill is made in Klein, Ed Week Nov. 13, 2015.
The Bill is Complicated!
There is praise for the bill for being complicated. It is compared to like looking at a Rorschach with one eye closed and with both hands tied behind their back for the next education secretary. (Klein. Nov. 13, 2015)
Good grief! If the education secretary can’t understand it, how will the rest of Americans get it?
Educators and parents are sick of fancy jargon and deceptive legalese when it comes to education. Say what it means so that we can understand! Complicated wording is not to be trusted. I think for this reason alone the bill should be halted.
Who’s Your Partner?
There’s partnership talk aplenty. Who are the partners? Partnerships are one reason a lot of people remain suspect about community schools. Partnerships can be a slippery slope to privatization. Partnerships might be decent, but their influence on public schooling needs to be outlined better here. We need rules as to how outside groups help public schools.
With all the talk about Competency-Based Education and technology, where is the language surrounding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? This is a huge concern for parents. It’s mostly missing!
Title I Portability—No, but Yes, is Deceptive
Title one portability is serious because it refers to vouchers, but while they say it was defeated, they tagged on another pilot project. This allows districts to fiddle around with a weighted funding formula in something that is unclear and yet to be described. I think it is a way to push vouchers through.
From Ed. Week, Nov. 13, 2015:
The program would allow fifty districts to combine state, local, and federal funds into a single pot that could follow a child to the school of their choice. It is said to be a more workable alternative to Title I portability, which looked more dramatic on paper,but which few states would likely have taken advantage of because of its complexity, experts said. But importantly with this pilot, participation would be entirely up to district officials. And the language would give them a chance to better target funds to individual school needs.
Title II funds and Teacher Quality?
What are they talking about with Title II funds and teacher quality? There’s a huge effort underway in many states to push nontraditional teaching programs and fast-track teachers into schools. Connection? I don’t trust this.
Charters but NOT Magnet Schools
Charter schools are different than Magnet Schools. Magnets are run by the school district and can focus on a particular area of interest for students especially at the middle and high school levels. Magnets have seen some success, and they can bring students together. Charter schools have not done well. Nor have charters been transparent. Nor do they bring students together. Why does the ESEA provide funding to charter schools but not magnet schools?
Block Grants for Privatized Programs and Technology?
A block grant for funding technology and Advanced Placement et cetera. Really? That’s a priority? How many privatized programs and companies are benefiting from the new bill?
Special Education: Still Concerns
Here is the CEC take on the bill. See if you like it. Also, isn’t there ALWAYS a bottom 5%?
- Repeals adequate yearly progress and replaces it with a statewide accountability system.
- Maintains annual, statewide assessments in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, as well as science tests given three times between grades 3 and 12.
- Affirms state control of standards.
- Helps states to improve low performing schools (bottom 5% of schools).
- Maintains with some modifications provisions for a cap of 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who can take the alternate assessment aligned to alternate academic achievement standards.
- Maintains annual reporting of data disaggregated by subgroups of children including students with disabilities.
- Maintains the provision for 95 participation in statewide assessments.
- Maintains maintenance of effort and supplement not supplant, with additional flexibility.
- Authorizes the Preschool Development Grants program.
- Maintain the Javits Grant Program.
- Adds accountability provisions from the Talent Act for gifted and talented students.
- Rejects “portability” requirements.
- Rejects vouchers.
- Eliminates highly qualified.
- Eliminates federally mandated teacher evaluation system (CEC Policy Insider, Nov. 20,2015).
Early Childhood Education Quality Programs, or More “Work Them Harder” Talk?
It is unclear what sort of programs will be pushed for early childhood education. Will they be public or private programs and what will they involve? Will they be developmentally appropriate, especially for addressing the needs of the poor? Early childhood is something every politician likes to support, but few do anything about.
Here are the recommendations from the NAEYC:
- Build state systems: NAEYC recommends that ESEA reauthorization support state efforts to build educational systems that align high-quality, developmentally appropriate services for children, families and teachers from birth through age 8. Many states have made significant progress in recent years developing systems that support high-quality learning experiences for all children, such as Quality Rating and Improvement Systems that are relevant to all program settings and connected to professional standards, certification and licensure.
- Invest in early education: NAEYC recommends that ESEA reauthorization include sufficient federal investments, including provisions in ESEA to provide quality services for young children and families. It is critically important to address the significant underfunding of the systems serving young children, such as CCDBG and providing greater access to Head Start and Early Head Start services. Additional funding is also needed to close the achievement gap and produce equitable outcomes for young children.
- Ensure quality in all programs: NAEYC recommends that ESEA reauthorization be designed to accelerate state and school local efforts to incorporate early learning proven practices and excellence in teaching in all programs from birth through third grade. Funding for full day kindergarten and pre-Kindergarten programs and community-based early learning programs—such as Head Start and high-quality infant and toddler care – are vital to securing this seamless continuum. ESEA should make funds be available for creating developmentally appropriate standards, curricula, instructional materials and professional development (ESEA NAEYC Recommendations).
Of course, this isn’t a complete list of my concerns. But I wanted to state how I hope Congress will STOP the reauthorization of the ESEA! We need a better, clearer bill. It is that important!
All the citations can be found online by doing a search for the title. Education Week allows some free reads even without a subscription.
ESEA Reauthorization: Summary of Conference Framework and Call to Action. The School Superintendent’s Association (AASA). November 19, 2015.
Klein, Alyson. “Lawmakers Announce Preliminary Agreement On ESEA Rewrite.” Education Week. November 13, 2015.
Klein, Alyson. “Accountability: A Likely Hitch in the New ESEA Deal.” Education Week. November 20, 2015.
Conference Committee Approves the Framework Bill to Reauthorization ESEA. CEC Policy Insider. November 20, 2015.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Recommendations NAEYC.