Reauthorize ESEA ASAP
I have not met many teachers, principals, or superintendents who think highly of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While some grudgingly admit that it has helped them focus on lower-achieving and at-risk children, they also point to the narrowing of the curriculum, the over-the-top focus on standardized testing, and the putative remedies that don’t adequately address needed education reform. Its implementation has been highly controversial, and the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward their Public Schools confirms that it has very little public support.
If that’s the case, then why would the Learning First Alliance (LFA), a partnership of 17-major national education associations including PDK, send a letter to President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offering support to reauthorize ESEA during the current legislative session? (For more information, visit the PDK Newsroom where you can read a press release and the letter.)
ESEA was first passed in 1965 and has been reauthorized several times since. The last reauthorization took place January 2002 when the act was renamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB). For over 40 years, ESEA has provided significant funds to state education agencies and local school districts. Simply abandoning the legislation is not an option.
However, even the original architects admit that while it has helped the nation focus on the needs of ALL children, now eight years after its passage, we know the legislation is deeply flawed in several ways. That’s why the LFA executive board, which represents over 10 million parents, educators, and policymakers, voted unanimously to fix this legislation as soon as possible. A delegation of LFA members will meet with Secretary Duncan to discuss plans on how we can work with the administration and Congress.
You should know that the 17 member associations are not in complete agreement on the changes necessary to improve the legislation, and the associations with advocacy interests will address those independent of each other.
In this political climate, it is possible that ESEA will not be reauthorized prior to the fall elections. If that happens, LFA will work with Secretary Duncan and his staff as they disseminate policy directives designed to reduce the negative features of NCLB while keeping its important focus on helping all children reach their full potential, particularly children at risk.
What are your thoughts?