Next Version of the Federal K-12 Law Should Drive School Reforms That Prepare Students for Success
September 24, 2009
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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today said that the $24.8 billion in federal funds available annually to the nation's schools should support reforms that prepare students for success in college and careers.
"Today, I am calling on all of you to join with us to build a transformative education law that guarantees every child the education they want and need—a law that recognizes and reinforces the proper role of the federal government to support and drive reform at the state and local level," Duncan told more than 200 leaders of major education groups in his first major speech about the future of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
The ESEA was reauthorized most recently in 2002 in what is known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
In his speech, Duncan said that the NCLB law has significant flaws and that he looks forward to working with Congress to address the law's problems. He said the law puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, unfairly labels many schools as failures, and doesn't account for students' academic growth in its accountability system.
"But the biggest problem with NCLB is that it doesn't encourage high learning standards," Duncan said. "In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling kids they are succeeding when they are not."
Duncan credited NCLB for highlighting the achievement gap in schools and for focusing accountability on student outcomes, and said he is committed to policies that work toward closing that gap while raising the achievement of all children.
He said he wants the next version of ESEA to create tests that better measure student learning and to build an accountability system that is based on the academic growth of students. He also wants the law to create programs to improve the performance of existing teachers and school leaders, to recruit new effective educators, and to ensure that the best educators are serving the children that are the furthest behind.
"Our role in Washington is to support reform by encouraging bold, creative approaches to addressing underperforming schools, closing the achievement gap, strengthening the field of education, reducing the dropout rate and boosting college access," Duncan said.
After Duncan's speech, the two senior staff members who will coordinate the department's effort to reauthorize the ESEA invited members of the audience to outline proposals for the next version of the law.
The session was the first in a series of events where education stakeholders will offer input about the law. Carmel Martin, assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and program development, and Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, will host the events in the Barnard Auditorium at the department's headquarters in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, 400 Maryland Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C.
The dates and times for upcoming ESEA stakeholder meetings are as follows:
* Wednesday, Oct. 7 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, Oct. 21 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, Nov. 4 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
* Friday, Nov. 20 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, Dec. 2 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The forums are part of the department's "Listening and Learning" tour seeking public input about changes to the ESEA. By the end of the year, the secretary or a senior staff member will have led a listening and learning event in all 50 states.