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Federal Flash Goes Back To School! Students Weigh in on Low-Performing Schools & Career and Technical Education

Federal Flash

What better way to kick off the school year than have students liven up the Federal Flash? This episode features Justice, a tenth-grade student at a public charter school and Elizabeth and Katie, both eighth graders in traditional public schools.

“As you might imagine, a high-quality education is very important to me and my peers,” said Justice. “Unfortunately, many times, we don’t have access to high-performing schools.”

When President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law in 2015, it created a world of new possibilities for students of color and students from low-income families to get the education they deserve.

The Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA is the main federal law that governs public education in this country. It was written to give states and districts more freedom to do exactly what its name says—make sure that every student succeeds.

But, in 2016 there were still almost 2,500 low-graduation-rate high schools.

“As a middle school student looking to high school next year, it’s not fair for me, or any other student, to have to attend a low-performing school,” said Katie.

But there’s good news.

This year, states and districts can look at their low-performing schools, including low-graduation-rate high schools. They can decide how to better serve students in these schools to ensure they have access to a high-quality education that helps them graduate from high school prepared to succeed in whatever path they choose.

“Since school districts now have more flexibility on how to do this, why not spice things up a bit? Why not create a learning environment that kids can relate to and enjoy?” asked Elizabeth.

One way to do this is through high-quality career and technical education (CTE). Luckily, Katie knows a little something about this.

“As a member of my school’s news show I’ve learned how to write a script, operate the cameras and equipment in our studio, and produce a daily news program, kind of like Federal Flash,” explained Katie. “It’s a lot of fun, but it also ties directly to what I’m learning in my classes.”

This is similar to the high-quality CTE that many high school students get in schools across the country, and it’s leading to positive outcomes for the students All4Ed advocates for.

The newly reauthorized CTE law, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, opens the door for more opportunities, similar to the one Katie described. It allows students to have a rich learning experience that provides a real-world curriculum and ultimately improves their performance.

It’s similar to the work happening in California through the Linked Learning approach.

To see Justice, Katie, and Elizabeth in action, watch the video below!

This blog post represents a slightly edited transcript of the September 5 episode of Federal Flash, the Alliance for Excellent Education’s five-minute (or less!) video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, DC. The video version is embedded below. For an alert when the next episode of Federal Flash is available, email at