Posted In: ESEA/NCLB, Moving in Congress
by Colleen Flaherty
For the first time since 2001, the House of Representatives is expected to debate and vote on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). After several failed attempts to reauthorize the law, educators, parents and other activists are encouraging Congress to get it right by making students and their education a top priority.
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The House is considering the “Student Success Act,” the House Education and Workforce Committee-passed version of ESEA reauthorization. In a letter to Congress, the National Education Association — which represents more than 3 million teachers and education support professionals who work in our public schools — opposed the legislation. Most concerning is that the bill would “erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations,” which is urgently needed in order to provide equal opportunity for all students.
As it stands, students, parents and lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans alike — agree that the current version of ESEA, otherwise known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has not worked and needs to be replaced with a fair, flexible and innovative education law. Educators are coming out of the woodwork to voice their support for a better solution.
“Instead of taking the easier path of placing the lion’s share of the blame for our failing schools on our teachers, educators, parents, students and legislators need to find realistic, effective solutions together,” said Brenda Tucker, a Kentucky educator.
“Please do something to fix the ESEA. Our children and students are being tested to death for no good reason,” said Nevada educator Bonnie Chenevert. “Rather than broadening education, we have been squeezing the life out if it, out of our teachers and out of our students. Please breathe that life back into the ESEA.”
According to NEA, a new ESEA should provide quality education for students that allows them to thrive in the 21st century. ESEA needs to:
- Promote innovation
- End the obsession with high-stakes, poor quality tests
- Support schools, especially those with high need, with the needed resources
- End the imposition of taxpayer-funded vouchers that drain money from local schools; and above all, h
- Help empower educators to focus on student learning and achievement.
As a New Jersey educator for over 30 years, Roberta Braverman has seen classroom quality go down as the emphasis on high-stakes testing goes up.
“Congress needs to take the lead to assure that students’ needs are met with all programs in place, including the arts and libraries. Proof has shown that money taken from the public schools to endorse private entities has not worked. Focus on our children, our future, and step up to the responsibilities entrusted to you as lawmakers,” said Braverman.
“As an educator, parent, grandparent, I really hope for some positive developments in education with this reauthorization,” said Virginia educator Donna Kain.
As a reading specialist, Kain is regularly exposed to the damaging effects of NCLB. She said it’s “demoralizing” for students who are years behind in reading to be expected to take and pass the same mandated tests as their peers.
I cried when a student who worked as hard as he could work found out he had failed the test. He put his head down and said, ‘I will never amount to anything.’ Is this the message we want to give our future generation? Please consider these issues and the others concerning the future of our students carefully. There is a lot at stake.
Parent and teacher Emily Taylor has worked at her school for nine years and has seen high-stakes tests hurt her students.
“Eight-year-olds and other students do not need the stress of these tests. They are expensive and do not serve a valuable purpose,” said Taylor. “I have seen class size increases and materials and resources decreasing. This cannot continue. We need to live in a country of educated citizens who are ready to face the challenges of the future and provide contributions to this world. This can only happen when this country supports our schools, teachers, students, and families. It is imperative for us all.
“Privatizing education and using a voucher system would be devastating and only make educational inequality much worse. Let’s strengthen our public schools!”
To learn more about how you can make your voice heard, visit our ESEA Activist Tools page.