The Alliance for Excellent Education’s comments and recommendations as Congress begins conferencing the Senate and House bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), specifically the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177) and the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).
The United States recently achieved a high school graduation rate of 81 percent, the highest on record. We recommend including several provisions within both S. 1177 and H.R. 5 to continue the nation’s progress in preparing all students for postsecondary education and the workforce. For example, we appreciate the targeting of new Title I funding to high schools in S. 1177 as well as the bill’s emphasis on high-quality assessments and federal funding for those assessments. Within H.R. 5, we appreciate the inclusion of an accurate calculation of the high school graduation rate as well improvements in Title II professional development policy.
As Congress finalizes an ESEA reauthorization bill, we are concerned that neither the Senate nor the House proposals adequately supports the nation’s lowest-performing students and schools. This memo details our recommendations for simultaneously providing all states and school districts with flexibility while also providing underserved students and their families with assurances of support. By striking an effective balance between local decisionmaking and federal safeguards, the final ESEA bill can ensure every student has the opportunity to become a high school graduate who is ready for college, a career, and citizenship. Our priority recommendations for achieving this goal are as follows:
- Identify and support high schools that fail to graduate one-third or more of their students, regardless of whether such schools receive Title I funding.
- Identify and support high schools that miss state-set achievement or graduation rate targets for one or more subgroups for two or more years.
- Maintain language included in H.R. 5 that defines an accurate calculation of the high school graduation rate.
- Maintain language included in S. 1177 that focuses new Title I funding on high schools by lowering the priority poverty threshold from 75 percent to 50 percent for high schools and allowing states to calculate poverty within high schools using a feeder pattern.
- Maintain language included in S. 1177 that strengthens the quality of state assessments by allowing state assessments to be delivered in part in the form of portfolios, projects, and performance tasks and by providing funding for state assessments and assessment audits.
- Maintain language included in S. 1177 that allows states to incorporate measures of readiness for postsecondary education and the workforce into state accountability systems.
More specific recommendations for conference, with accompanying legislative language and rationale, can be downloaded above.