Blueprint for Success: Elementary and Secondary Education Act 2010


Today, the Federal Department of Education published President Obama’s blueprint for an reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA), most famously known as the “No Child Left Behind Act” after an amendment by President Bush in 2001. Bush’s legislation was intended to close the achievement gap between white and ethnic minority students by requiring all children to be proficient in reading and math by 2014. The pillar of that amendment was a two-tier, pass/fail system for evaluating schools. To receive federal funds to improve, a school is required to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), based on data from state standardized tests. Many believe this process resulted in lower standards for “failing” schools and the wide-spread practice of “teaching to the test,” as there were no national standards and little support to help schools reach AYP.
In his revision of ESEA, Obama hopes to create a system of accountability in which teachers and administration have continued professional development that ensures students will be “college- and career- ready” by the time they graduate high school. The goals of Obama’s blueprint, as stated are to:

“(1) Improv[e] teacher and principal effectiveness to ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school has a great leader; (2) Provid[e] information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children’s schools, and to educators to help them improve their students’ learning; (3) Implement[sic] college- and career-ready standards and developing improved assessments aligned with those standards; and (4) Improv[e] student learning and achievement in America’s lowest-performing schools by providing intensive support and effective interventions.”

By 2014 schools are expected to adopt higher standards based on a Common Core Standards model drafted by the National Governors Association , which has been well received by many state education boards. To do this, the President’s blueprint calls for improved data systems throughout school districts that measure each student’s academic growth, regardless of the performance level at which he starts. In addition, schools will be allowed to submit data from test scores other than math and reading for annual ratings. As far as accountability for faculty effectiveness, Obama proposes to use "value-added" indicators (i.e. tracking how much students learn throughout the school year under a given teacher) through analyzing principals' classroom observations and reviews of lesson plans. Thus far, the only discord surrounding the proposed amendment is based on the lowest 5% of schools — about 5,000 — Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan says “he'll require them to take drastic steps to improve, including firing their principal and, in some cases, at least half of their staff…” In response to this teaching unions have raised some concerns. While the full bill isn't available online yet, after Congress reviews it, it is widely expected to pass.

DC VOICE is a proponent of Obama’s blueprint, and looks forward to future expansion of the legislation with specific data and plans for implementation. From the beginning, DC VOICE has been an advocate for systemic, needs-based reform through engagement. Obama’s plan to improve data collection nationally among schools, as well as, allow schools to inform their own process of rejuvenation is in accordance with our own mission and plans for equity. As best stated by Obama, in his introduction:

“Instead of labeling failures, we will reward success. Instead of a single snapshot, we will recognize progress and growth. And instead of investing in the status quo, we must reform our schools to accelerate student achievement, close achievement gaps, inspire our children to excel, and turn around those schools that for too many young Americans aren’t providing them with the education they need to succeed in college and a career.”

With Obama’s mentality transforming the way our nation views the school system and reform; hopefully, quality teaching and learning outcomes in public education will come to be viewed, not only as more attainable, but most important for the future of our country and its children.

(Check out Secretary of Education, Arned Duncan, at our Ward 5 townhall meeting as he shows how DC VOICE reform efforts are in accordance with that of the federal government. Click Here.)

Demand Reform. Demand Equity.



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