Press Release

WASHINGTON (July 19, 2013) Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is long overdue, but the legislation passed today in the House does not fix the problems in the current law and will make things worse, not better. Passage of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, in the House of Representatives walks away from low-income students and students of color and threatens to wipe away 40 years of educational progress.

The original bill had no expectations that state standards or assessments be aligned with the demands of college and the workplace; did not include any expectation that schools raise the achievement of low-income students, students of color, English language learners, or students with disabilities; allowed districts to continue to shortchange their high-poverty schools in the budget; and cut funding for states, districts, and schools.

Moreover, the final bill includes several amendments that mark an even bigger retreat from education equity. An amendment by Reps. Scalise (R-LA) and Bishop (R-UT) makes teacher evaluations based in part on student achievement permissive – not mandatory. Without meaningful evaluation systems, schools, districts, and states won’t have the information they need to disrupt the longstanding pattern of low-income students and students of color being saddled with weak teachers year after year.

And an amendment by Reps. Reed (R-NY), McKinley (R-WV), and Owens (D-NY) allows states to develop accountability systems based – in whole or in part – on measures not related to student achievement. There are some important measures beyond test scores that should carry limited weight in accountability systems, such as graduation rates, participation and success in rigorous high school coursework, and college enrollment rates. But this amendment sets no boundaries on the weight or type of multiple measures that can be used. Rather, it would open the floodgates for measures that have no place in a system intended to measure whether states are properly using federal dollars to raise achievement and close gaps between groups of students. Students, parents, and taxpayers deserve an honest assessment of whether states are preparing students for the demands of college, the workplace, and citizenship.

For the sake of all students, we encourage the Senate to find a path forward that raises achievement and closes longstanding gaps between student groups. Our nation has no time to wait – we can’t afford to lose any ground.

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