Wise Outlines Importance of an Elementary and Secondary Education Act that Upholds the Principles of Accuracy, Equity, and Excellence
WASHINGTON, DC – In conjunction with today’s U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s hearing, “Fixing No Child Left Behind: Testing and Accountability,” Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, issued the following statement outlining the importance of an Elementary and Secondary Education Act that upholds the principles of accuracy, equity, and excellence:
“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) should be reauthorized. However, America’s students need the right reauthorization. I applaud Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander for moving this process forward and I urge policymakers to consider major improvements to this bill.
“With the focused attention of educators over the last decade, the nation’s high school graduation rate has been brought to an all-time high. Still, one out of five students do not graduate with their peers, if at all. For students of color, that figure jumps to nearly 30 percent. Those who graduate from high school are often unprepared for the rigor of postsecondary education and achievement gaps still plague the country. For example, only 10 percent of African American students who took the ACT were “college-ready” in three or more subject areas, compared to nearly half (49 percent) of white students.
“Education is a civil right and ESEA is fundamentally a civil rights law. I am concerned that Chairman Alexander’s discussion draft erodes the limited but important role played by the federal government in supporting the education of traditionally underserved students.
“Among other significant problems, the bill reduces federal support for low-performing schools, eliminates accountability requirements for traditionally underserved students, and could lead to a major reduction in the nation’s financial investments in education by eliminating the so-called ‘Maintenance of Effort’ provisions of the law.
“I appreciate that the chairman’s discussion draft maintains federal financial support for state-developed assessments. However, other important federal programs are unfunded or eliminated, including School Improvement Grants, the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy program, Investing in Innovation, Advanced Placement, and the High School Graduation Initiative.
“Over the weeks and months ahead, it is critical for members of Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to draft a law that upholds the principles of accuracy, equity, and excellence:
- Accuracy: ESEA must require states to accurately calculate and report high school graduation rates, disaggregated by subgroup and extended-year graduation rate. It is encouraging that Chairman Alexander’s bill upholds an accurate calculation of the graduation rate, and I urge additional specificity to ensure that parents and the community can rely on the accurate reporting of this critical indicator of school performance.
- Equity: ESEA must require states to set high school graduation rate goals and annual targets for all students and subgroups and require support to be provided if one or more subgroups do not meet an annual target for two or more years.
- Excellence: ESEA must support world-class high schools by requiring states to focus evidence-based reform and resources on high schools that fail to graduate one-third of their students.
“Traditionally, education has been a bipartisan issue. Efforts to renew ESEA have failed over the past several years largely because of the Congress’s inability to reach bipartisan agreement on key areas of education policy. Over the weeks and months ahead, the Alliance for Excellent Education looks forward to working with members of Congress within both parties to achieve a bipartisan ESEA reauthorization that maintains the federal commitment to education and upholds the principles of accuracy, equity, and excellence.”
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org