(Washington, D.C.) — More than 100 African American and Latino school district superintendents from across the country today sent a letter to Congress, the White House and to all of the Democratic Presidential candidates stating loudly and clearly, ’Dont turn back the clock on the accountability provisions in Title I.’ These education leaders, who together oversee the education of more than 3 million students, were joined by over 135 other superintendents, principals, teachers and community leaders from across the country in letting policymakers know that rolling back the accountability provisions in the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act is simply not an option.
The superintendents, many from districts struggling with the toughest challenges, all recognize that rigorous accountability is good for public education. They know that, while challenging, the new expectations in Title I are especially good news for the disadvantaged students, including students of color and students living in poverty, whose underachievement has been swept underneath overall averages for too long. After watching mounting political attacks on accountability, these educators felt compelled to explain how the accountability provisions are helping them to bring about long-overdue conversations about how we can do things differently to better public education.
These educators know first-hand about the challenges facing public education, but they also know that accountability gives them leverage for moving their systems to action. ”Closing achievement gaps is never going to be easy. But it would be next to impossible without the demands and expectations in the federal law,” remarked Paul Ruiz, Principal Partner of The Education Trust, also a former principal and former Chief Academic Officer in an urban school system. “These folks dont have the luxury of thinking they can implement all the changes they need to without the cover of the law. We can’t pull the rug out from under them just as they are beginning to get some real traction,” Ruiz continued.
”There is a battle raging for the soul of American education,” noted Kati Haycock, Director of The Education Trust. “In our work around the country, we often hear local educators talk about the progress they are seeing as a result of the new accountability. These education leaders are especially concerned with the messages communicated by those opposed to accountability. Too often, the critics imply that students from low-income families and students of color simply cannot be expected to be taught to high levels. We kept hearing from educators whose experiences have taught them otherwise that these insidious messages could not go unchallenged, so we promised to find a way to help them share their voices with the nation,” stated Haycock.
”Those who would roll back the accountability provisions in Title I do not speak for the courageous educators with whom we work every day,” said Stephanie Robinson, Principal Partner with The Education Trust and former deputy superintendent of Kansas City, Missouri’s public schools. “The politicians and talking heads of the education establishment in Washington need to understand that this law is actually helping to get public education more focused on raising achievement for all students and on closing achievement gaps between groups. These superintendents thought Washington needed to hear from educators in the field who are using the accountability provisions to advance the mission of public education.”
The message of these courageous educators to Congress, the White House and the Democratic Presidential candidates is clear: ”We recognize that the goal of educating all students presents a tremendous challenge. We believe that American public education is up to the task. We add our voices to those who have stepped up to the challenge.”
As the education leaders charged with implementing the laws rigorous demands, these superintendents are saying with conviction and authority: “Don’t turn back the clock.”