Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chiefs for Change Comment on ESEA Legislation Introduced by the Senate Education Committee

San Francisco, CA – Representing more than 11 million students in our states, the Chiefs for Change commend Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) for forging a bipartisan agreement for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 
Congressional action on this critical piece of legislation is needed and long overdue.  It must, however, be done thoughtfully and in a way that supports State reforms that hold schools accountable for student performance, support teacher effectiveness, and broaden options available to students.
Supt. Janet Barresi
Chiefs for Change is a coalition of state school chiefs and leaders that share a zeal for education reform. Together, they provide a strong voice for bold reform on the federal, state and local level. Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is a member of Chiefs for Change.

The draft legislation addresses a number of important issues, including support for high college and career ready standards, assessments to help measure student progress, and more effective systems to measure student progress.

We are concerned, however, about unintended consequences that could result from the proposed accountability framework.  For example, the school turnaround options are too prescriptive, and, more importantly, do not empower states to strategically intervene in their persistently low performing schools. State chiefs should have the option to use all the resources and interventions available to them under state law.  These tend to be more appropriate and vigorous than the six federal models.

We are also concerned that the legislation does not go far enough in addressing the changes needed to the highly qualified teacher requirements under current law.  We believe that while qualifications and credentials are important, we must quickly shift to teacher and principal evaluation systems that recognize and reward the value added by teachers and administrators to student achievement. These evaluations should be used to provide teachers targeted professional development, guide hiring and firing decisions, and inform licensure, tenure, compensation, and teacher assignment. Nothing is more important than ensuring that we have an effective teacher in every classroom.

We look forward to working with members of Congress to strengthen these legislative proposals so that a reauthorized ESEA will deliver the results that our students need and are worthy of this great nation.
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