WASHINGTON (April 7, 2015) – Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust, issued the following statement today on the “Every Child Achieves Act.”
“Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), respectively the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, today unveiled the results of their efforts to produce a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) capable of attracting the bipartisan support necessary to eventually be signed into law. All of us at The Education Trust are encouraged by much of what is contained in this package. And we are eager to work to improve those remaining parts necessary to ensure that all students are held to high expectations and provided with the supports necessary to meet those expectations.
“The ‘Every Child Achieves Act’ ensures a federal commitment to state-set standards aligned with the demands of postsecondary education and careers, as well as annual statewide assessments to help both parents and educators gauge where students are on their journey to meet those standards. Both of these are critically important to the effort to make sure that all children get a quality education.
“To respond to public demand for more and better data on a range of indicators of school quality, the package also expands public reporting. As an organization focused on equity, we are particularly delighted to see more transparency around differences in school spending, teacher quality, and school disciplinary practices.
“And we’re pleased that the proposal maintains targeting of federal dollars to the districts and schools serving the highest concentrations of low-income students, as well as the obligation of states and districts to act when low-income students and students of color are disproportionately assigned to ineffective, out-of-field, and inexperienced teachers.
“Perhaps most important, given the focus of the law on improving education for the most vulnerable students, the package insists that states set academic improvement goals both for all students and for each of the groups of students — low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities — who are the focus of federal law. And it insists that progress against group goals be a factor in school rating systems.
“But even as we celebrate what is in the bill, we must press for attention to what is not. What’s missing is a clear expectation that student progress toward college- and career- ready graduation matters most in the accountability system, coupled with a clear expectation that any school that is chronically low-performing or consistently underperforming for any group of students be identified for intervention and support.
“Let us be clear: We applaud the effort to provide states with greater flexibility in designing their accountability systems because state circumstances certainly differ. One way in which they do not differ, however, is their propensity to provide lower quality education to the very children — especially students of color and children from low-income families — whose futures are most dependent upon a high-quality education.
“Federal involvement in education is aimed at counterbalancing that tendency, both by insisting that states do right by all of their children and providing them with extra resources to do that job. But if we have learned anything from experience with past iterations of federal law, it is that many — if not most — states will do the absolute minimum required by that law.
“So, if federal law allows states — when they decide which schools need attention and action — to turn a blind eye to schools that are not making progress toward college- and career-ready graduation for some or all groups of children, then most states will do exactly that. And the children who attend schools that consistently fail to meet some or all of the state-set goals can have no confidence that anybody will act to protect their futures.
“This broken link between academic achievement on the one hand and action on the other needs to be fixed. It’s a small change that will have big implications for our most vulnerable children.”
The Education Trust is a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college. Its goal is to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement that consign far too many young people — especially those from low-income families or who are black, Latino or American Indian — to lives on the margins of the American mainstream.