The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) delivered much needed funding and implemented a school reform agenda with several goals, including high standards, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring all children have a quality teacher. The California Teachers Association can support these goals.
CTA believes that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as the preeminent federal policy on education, needs to be less about politics and more about policies to fulfill the promises of a high quality public education. States and local education agencies are in the best position to make decisions regarding educational programs, delivery models, and qualifications for educators, while the federal government must ensure equitable educational opportunity for all students.
Instead of continuing to pursue simplistic, mechanical solutions to the complex issues of education reform, we need to “Reach for the STARS.” CTA’s five-point reauthorization principles include:
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 and 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 prescriptive of the types of multiple measures and appropriate practices to identify effectiveness.
In its most basic aspect, the concept of educational accountability is a process designed to insure that any one 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 in order that students have 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.
Read the complete CTA Principles for ESEA Reauthorization