Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides a real opportunity to create legislation that serves all groups of children equitably. Done right, a new law will keep federal, state, and local leaders honest about efforts to educate all children to high levels, especially students of color and those from low-income households. If not constructed thoughtfully, the law could hurt children.

Gutting major provisions around assessment, transparency, and accountability could return us to a time when the academic performance of some students was hidden.

Latest News

Follow the latest news and opinion on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as developments unfold.


Getting Real About Over-Testing

Posted on TNTP Blog by Dan Weisberg, March 26, 2015

If you want a surefire way to dampen the mood at a party or heighten the tension at your dinner table, bring up standardized testing. It’s the part of our education system everyone loves to hate.

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American has no kids to spare

Posted on The Hill by Arne Duncan, Marc Morial and Janet Murguia, March 23, 2015

All of our children deserve an equal chance to succeed. Being the nation we’re meant to be — the nation we’re proud to be — starts with providing a great education for every child, from every family, in every community. It’s an essential step in ensuring that the reality of America lives up to the powerful promise of America.

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Don’t Give Up the Gains in Education

New York Times Editorial, February 21, 2015

Congress made the right decision a decade ago when it required states to administer yearly tests to public school students — and improve instruction for poor and minority students — in return for federal education aid.

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Resources Without Accountability Won’t Work Any Better Than Accountability Without Resources

Posted on Huffington Post by Kati Haycock on February 18, 2015

At first, our coalition of national civil rights, business, and disabilities organizations may seem like odd bedfellows. Indeed, during the course of a typical year, these organizations disagree on many matters of public policy.

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Any rewrite of No Child Left Behind should keep annual testing provisions

THE U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Council of La Raza, Business Roundtable and the Education Trust disagree about many things. That makes all the more significant their common accord that the country can’t afford to retreat from policies that aim to give every child — regardless of race, ability or family income — access to a quality education. We hope it’s a message that Congress doesn’t lose sight of as it undertakes a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind act.

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What Do Teachers Really Think About Assessment?

Posted on The Equity Line by Rachel Metz on February 12, 2015

This week, congressional staffers and others had a too-infrequent opportunity to hear from teachers about the role of assessments in education. During a Hill briefing, teachers with Teach Plus spoke from their diverse perspectives, but they all echoed a common theme: High-quality assessments — ones that are aligned to curriculum, measure growth among students at all achievement levels, and ask complex questions — are an invaluable tool for instruction. Here’s what they had to say:

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Closing Long-Standing Opportunity and Achievement Gaps: Testing and Transparency Are Critical, But Schools Must Be Accountable for Doing Their Part

Posted on The Equity Line by Kati Haycock on February 2, 2015

It’s a common refrain on Capitol Hill that the new education law Congress is working on right now should get the federal government out of micromanaging American public schools, letting states and communities decide how to educate their children.

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 Too Much Testing? Or Not Enough Quality Testing?

Posted on The Equity Line by Sonja Brookins Santelises on January 27, 2015

As an educator who has spent nearly all of her professional life in urban education, I am deeply concerned about the direction that current (and admittedly much-needed) discussions about over-testing in our public schools has taken.

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 What Would Happen Without Annual Testing?

Posted on The Equity Line by Deborah Veney on January 22, 2015

have a very personal connection to annual testing.

When my daughter began elementary school, I decided to enroll her in a school with ethnic and economic diversity. I didn’t want her to be the only little, black girl in her class, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice academic rigor.

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 What’s the Score on Assessments? Most Say to Keep Them Annual and Make Them Count

Posted on The Equity Line by Matt De Ferranti on January 21, 2015

Today’s Senate hearing on assessments and accountability reaffirms why annual statewide testing used to prompt meaningful action is essential for continuing the academic progress we’ve seen for students and schools over the last decade.

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Civil Rights Organizations Agree: Students Who Aren’t Tested Won’t Count

Posted on The Equity Line by Kati Haycock on January 11, 2015

Today, a large coalition of civil rights and disabilities organizations — including The Education Trust — released its top priorities for Congress to consider when reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as ESEA, later this year. Among those priorities, at least one might come as a bit of a surprise: continuation of the federal requirement that states test all students in grades three through eight once a year, and again at least once during high school.

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Dumb Policy Ideas Not Limited to the Far Right

Posted on The Equity Line by Kati Haycock on January 14, 2015

The joint proposal for ESEA reauthorization from the Center for American Progress and the American Federation of Teachers shows that bad policy ideas aren’t limited to the far right. If adopted, these policies would return us to a time when how much students learned hardly mattered (that is, to anybody but them).

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Latest Actions

Want to have a better grasp of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act? We respond to the significant developments to help you make sense of the details and let you know where we stand.


Joint Letter from Civil Rights Organizations: Support Rep. Bobby Scott’s Substitute Amendment to H.R. 5: Protect the Needs of Students

Dear Representatives:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 24 undersigned organizations, we urge you to support Ranking Member Scott’s Substitute Amendment to H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. The substitute maintains important federal protections for our nation’s students and is a much needed update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The amendment replaces the outdated, rigid mandates of No Child Left Behind, and promotes local and state reforms while maintaining bedrock equity protections for all students.

Joint Letter from Civil Rights Organizations: Oppose H.R. 5: Protect the Needs of Students

Dear Representatives:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 47 undersigned organizations, we urge you to oppose H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, introduced by Chairman Kline. H.R. 5 undermines important federal protection for our nation’s students, particularly children of color; children living in poverty; children with disabilities; homeless, foster, and migrant children; children in the juvenile justice system; children still learning English; and Native children. This bill is not a much needed update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Rather, it is a rollback to a time when the needs of students in underserved communities were ignored.


Joint Letter from Business, Civil Rights, Disabilities and Education Advocates: Oppose Rep. Goodlatte’s Amendment to H.R. 5

Dear Members of the U.S. House of Representatives,

As leaders of the nation’s business, civil rights, and disabilities communities, we support the current requirement for statewide annual assessment in H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. However, we oppose amendment #74 to H.R. 5, offered by Representative Goodlatte of Virginia.

Student Success Act, H.R. 5 Falls Short in Protecting our Most Vulnerable Students

WASHINGTON (February 11, 2015) – Today, The Education Trust issued the following statement expressing our disappointment with the House Education Committee’s passing of Chairman John Kline’s “Student Success Act” or H.R. 5.

“Each previous iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, moved the country forward on correcting longstanding injustices in its educational systems. Unless it is significantly improved as it moves through Congress, the Student Success Act will turn back the clock.”

Likely Effects of Portability on Districts’ Title 1 Allocations

At the core of the federal Title I program is a bargain: a significant investment of federal dollars for disadvantaged students and a demand for significantly improved outcomes for those students in return. This brief focuses on the investment side. It examines the likely effect of the “portability” provisions currently under consideration as a part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We first explain current law and the proposed changes. Then we present data on the impact of these proposed changes across multiple states, focusing on how districts serving the highest concentrations of students in poverty would lose money at the expense of those districts serving the fewest.

Priorities for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Prepared Testimony of Kati Haycock, The Education Trust for House Committee on Education and the Workforce Forum on Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) Reauthorization

Ranking Member Scott and other members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, thank you for the opportunity to address the importance of making sure all students matter in any reauthorization of ESEA that moves forward. In 2001, this committee put the finishing touches on a law that would go on to fundamentally reshape what it means to be a good school in America. Prior to that time, of course, schools could skate by on schoolwide averages, sweeping under the rug the large gaps in achievement among different groups of children. But you changed that when you declared that, in order to be a good school, you had to be good for every group of children that you served. All children had to be assessed and the results for all groups of children had to matter.

Comments to Senate HELP Committee on “Every Child Ready for College or Career Act” Discussion Draft

Dear Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, and other members of the Senate HELP Committee:

Thank you for your efforts to jump-start the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While current law has helped to prompt the fastest improvement since 1980 in the achievement of the very children who are the primary focus of federal education policy, the law has become outdated and, in some places, unworkable. We have learned a lot as a country in the 13 years since it was signed — lessons that should be reflected in a new, forward-looking law. While the Chairman’s discussion draft of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act builds on some of those, we appreciate the opportunity to offer comments aimed at improving the draft to respond to other of those lessons.

“Congress, Keep the Backbone of ESEA Strong!”

Washington – Today, a coalition of leaders from the business, education, civil rights, and disability communities issued a joint letter calling on Congress to ensure that a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) includes:

  • Annual, statewide assessments of all students grades three to eight, and at least once in high school;
  • Public reporting of assessment results in a transparent and accessible way; and
  • Accountability systems that expect faster improvement for the groups of children who have been traditionally underserved, and prompt action when any group of students underperforms.

UPDATED: More Than 25 Civil Rights Groups and Education Advocates Release Principles for ESEA Reauthorization: “The Federal Role Must Be Honored and Maintained”

Washington – More than 20 civil rights groups and education advocates released shared civil rights principles for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The New York Times and Washington Post reported on the coalition’s insistence on annual, standardized testing as part of ESEA reauthorization. 

Latest Resources

Check out our latest resources to get up to speed on the assessment, accountability, and funding discussions swirling around reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.