Instead of continuing to pursue simplistic, mechanical solutions to the complex issues of education reform, we need to “Reach for the STARS” with a more balanced approach. CTA offers a five-point outline of principles to guide ESEA reauthorization:
The federal role in education should be one of partnership with, and support of, the states in ensuring that all children receive a quality education in a safe, secure school. Practices promoted by federal policy, including ESEA, should foster consistently high and rigorous expectations for students by all educators. Outcomes for students must be focused on equitable access to high-quality teaching and learning — not on minimum proficiency and capacity — so that our state schools produce a graduating pool of college and career ready students.
The federal definition of teacher quality lowers rigor and relevance of California’s teacher preparation and induction standards. Federal definitions need to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive, of the types of multiple measures and appropriate practices to identify effectiveness.
In its most basic aspect, educational accountability is conceived as a process designed to ensure that anyone can determine if the schools are producing the results required. Assessment and testing policies have a profound influence on the ways in which schools function. This influence is particularly strong with respect to the kinds of educational programs they offer. ESEA should allow school improvement efforts to be locally developed to meet specific student needs and community contexts, based on a needs analysis that includes all stakeholders.
Resources and Innovation
Proven reforms such as small class sizes and improved teacher training, and years of hard work by dedicated educators, are producing real results in many schools and school districts. Funding available through ESEA must be adequate to give students the opportunity to meet the expectations set for them. These funds must also be distributed equitably, based on the needs of students in those schools and not on the wealth of the school district. Mandates set by ESEA must be fully funded.
The program of sanctions and interventions under earlier reauthorizations has not worked to improve persistently low-performing schools. For example, school choice as currently implemented under ESEA does not address or improve the pervasive problems at the school of residence. Flexibility for schools means considering the needs of all student abilities in order to develop programs that match the local context.
To read the full text of CTA’s recommendations, visit www.cta.org/Issues-and-Action/ESEA-NCLB/Principles. Also, look for CTA radio ads in April and May that show how Washington and Sacramento’s ideas about reforming public schools are just not working for California students. You can also listen to them at www.cta.org/About-CTA/News-Room/Media-Center/Audio/2010/Top-Down-English.