Education

Essay Question: Will Next ESEA Be Harder or Easier on Schools?

July 18, 2008 1 min read
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I spoke (via Skype) to a class for future teachers at the University of Tennessee. My main point was that the federal government has gradually increased the amount of testing and prescription over the past 20 years.

In 1988, the ESEA mandated testingrequired districts for the first time to define the test scores they expected of Chapter 1 (now Title I) students, but didn’t prescribe interventions. In 1994, the law required states to assess all students three times (once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school) and to measure schools were making adequate yearly progress toward Title I students being proficient. But the law didn’t set a deadline for reaching that goal, and once again was silent on how to hold schools accountable for reaching it.

Then NCLB added annual testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school, the goal that all students be on track to be proficient by the 2013-14 school year, and prescriptions such as school choice and tutoring for schools that fail to meet AYP goal based on that deadline.

The following questions dawn on me: What will Congress do next? Will it let up on what it requires of schools or will it add more?

Just this week, we’ve heard arguments from both sides. Randi Weingarten argued for a retrenchment. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings praised the law’s accountability measures like a revivalist preacher. Urban superintendents told a House committee to be more aggressive on accountability and to embrace national standards.

Here’s an essay question for anyone willing to answer: Which way do you think Congress will go? Comments welcome (and if you’re from Lynn Woolsey’s class at the University of Tennessee, please identify yourself).

UPDATE: See corrections in the second paragraph. Thanks to former Ed Week writer Bob Rothman for setting me straight.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.

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