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Congress, Keep the Backbone of ESEA Strong

Monday, February 2, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

Coalition of business, civil rights, and disabilities groups jointly calls for assessment, public reporting, and accountability for student outcomes in a reauthorized ESEA. 


WASHINGTON (February 2, 2015) – Today, leaders in the business, education, civil rights, and disability communities issued a joint letter calling on Congress to ensure a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) include:

  • Annual, statewide assessments of all students grades three to eight, and at least once in high school;
  • Public reporting of assessment results in a transparent and accessible way; and
  • Accountability systems that expect faster improvement for the groups of children who have been traditionally underserved, and prompt action when any group of students underperforms.


The group, representing a diverse set of perspectives, has come together on this important issue, finding common ground. They also released their principles document: “Assessment, Transparency, and Accountability: Three Critical Elements of a Bipartisan Approach to Advancing Excellence and Equity.” 

“This law is as relevant today as when it was first enacted at the height of the civil rights movement,” said Wade Henderson, CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Ensuring all students learn reading and math is a nonpartisan issue with profound moral and economic ramifications. The principles we agree on are a reasonable set of standards that must be central to the ESEA reauthorization to help ensure students of color, students learning English, and students with disabilities have a fair shot at a high-quality education.”


 “While our organizations may disagree on many things, we have united at this critical moment – as we did back in 2001 – because of our common conviction that America cannot afford to keep squandering the potential of so many children,” remarked John Engler, former Governor of Michigan and President of the Business Roundtable. “Together, we are urging Congress to keep the essential backbone of the law strong.”

The coalition includes the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Education Trust, National Council of La Raza, Business Roundtable, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Democrats for Education Reform, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Its members will work together, and with other organizations that agree with the same principles, to make sure that any new law advances the achievement of all children, especially the nation’s most vulnerable.

                                                                                                                              Denise Marshall, Executive Director of COPAA noted:  “These core ideas of accountability, public reporting, and annual assessments were key in raising expectations and outcomes for students with disabilities, some of the children most often under served by our school systems. We agree that testing must be meaningful and that there are many things to improve about the original law, but that core idea of accountability for all children isn’t one of them.”

The full text of the Equity and Excellence Principles is below.

Assessment, Transparency, and Accountability: Three Critical Elements of a Bipartisan Approach to Advancing Both Excellence and Equity

1.    AssessmentsContinue current law, requiring annual, statewide assessment of all students in grades 3-8, and at least once in high school, in both reading and math. All students also must be assessed in science at least once, each, during elementary, middle and high school. All means all students taking the same test. Only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities should be assessed on alternate assessments on alternate achievement standards with strict limits.

2.    Public Reporting: Transparent, accessible reporting at the state, district, and school level of:

a.    The percent of students at each achievement level on the statewide assessment; accurate high school graduation rates, and all other indicators in the accountability system, overall, and for low-income, major racial/ethnic groups, students with disabilities, English Learners, gender, and cross-tabbed by gender and disability.

b.    Accountability ratings 

3.    AccountabilityStatewide accountability systems that expect and support all students to graduate from high school ready for college and career.

a.    Indicators:

 i.    Assessments (growth and reading, math, and science proficiency), accurate high school graduation rates, and other measures of college/career readiness must be predominant;

 ii.    Other indicators (attendance, student surveys, school safety, parent satisfaction, working conditions, etc.) may be included, but must play secondary role.

 iii.    Evidence of English proficiency and time in program should be taken into account for English learners.

b.    States must set public statewide improvement and gap-closing goals on at least assessments and graduation rates to improve student outcomes.

c.    Those goals must be translated into improvement targets for districts and schools for students overall and for all subgroups, with greater progress expected for groups that have been behind.

d.    Performance against those targets must be the predominant factor in statewide school accountability systems, with other indicators making up the rest. Performance against targets must also be a significant factor in district accountability systems, though these appropriately also include measures of support for schools, success with school turnaround, equity in distribution of key resources like dollars and teachers, and the like.

e.    States must specify how schools that exceed targets will be rewarded, and what the consequences—interventions, supports, ratings--will be for schools that don’t meet their targets, including how students in persistently underperforming schools will get the supports they need to meet state standards.

f.     Where plans call for districts to be first responders, states must specify how they will monitor district performance and intervene for non-performance.

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