Opinion
Equity & Diversity Opinion

Ten Steps in the Right Direction: How Feds Can Strengthen Public Education

By Learning First Alliance — May 03, 2012 4 min read

By Dan
Domenech, Executive Director of the American
Association of School Administrators

Nothing is simple in the process of
strengthening our national approach to public education. These ten steps, however, provide a framework
for invigorating our schools and creating an environment for positive change.

1. Provide
regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind
.

The waiver process that the administration has implemented is no more than an
exchange of old regulations for new ones. It replaces the depleted stimulus
dollars with regulatory relief as the means to get states and districts to
implement the administration’s policy. We certainly support accountability and
the continued disaggregation of data for sub-groups of students, one of the few
positive contributions of NCLB. We strongly support improving the lowest
achieving schools, but at the same time we believe we must acknowledge the
accomplishments of the vast majority of schools in America.

2. Allocate funds via formulas based on percentage of
poverty.

We continue to object to the use of
ESEA dollars for competitive grants. The intent of ESEA is to level the playing
field relative to poverty. Since the beginning of the current recession, school
systems have seen dramatic increases in the number of children eligible for
free and reduced lunches. All eligible children should benefit from all
available funds, not just those in “winner” states and districts.

3. Set goals, hold districts accountable for them, but allow the localities the freedom to determine how to implement them.

We are concerned about the growing
intrusion of the federal government into state and local education issues. Any
reduction in federal funds should be accompanied by a similar reduction in
federal mandates. School systems should not be required to spend local and
state funds to implement federal mandates.

Accountability for effectiveness is a
state and local responsibility, as are compensation decisions. The required use
of the very standardized tests that have been labeled as not valid and reliable
by the administration in order to evaluate teachers and principals is creating
chaos in states and school systems throughout the country.

Yes, student performance must be a key
factor in the evaluation of teachers and administrators, but it must be left up
to the states and localities to determine how, not forced upon them as a
requirement for obtaining competitive federal dollars.

4. Fully fund and reauthorize the Rural Education
Achievement Program Reauthorization Act (REAP) to maintain direct-to-district
funding.

AASA played a pivotal role in the
original adoption of this program. The needs of our rural schools are often
overlooked and, due to a lack of capacity and staffing, they tend to fair
poorly in a competitive grant environment. REAP is a dedicated source of funds
that they sorely need.

5. Continue to
support the Common Core and state-developed standards
.

In a globally competitive world we cannot go against
countries that have a set of national standards while we have a set of fifty standards.
It is also difficult to assess our progress as a nation with fifty sets of
tests whose results do not align well with the closest instrument we have to a
national test, the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

6. Separate
assessment for purposes of accountability from assessment for the purpose of
informing instruction.

A random sample of the nation, a la NAEP, would do for purposes of
accountability with reduced costs and less intrusion on instruction and the
number of children and subjects tested.

7. State interventions should concentrate on building
capacity and focus on a broad range of evidence and practice- based turn-around
models.

Current requirements take judgment out of the hands of local administrators and
force them to engage in the whole-scale removal of teachers and principals. We
must stop the negative rhetoric that blankets all public schools and focus on
the schools that need fixing. In that regard

8. Provide full funding of IDEA

AASA continues to advocate for full
funding at the forty percent of the national average per-pupil expenditure and
for allowing school districts to reduce local effort by up to one hundred
percent of federal funding decreases.

9. Provide federal funding to address non-school barriers to
student achievement

Wrap around programs continue to be
essential to the education of the total child, and we support high quality
childcare programs and tax incentives for employers to provide support for
child care and after-school care. The Children’s Health Insurance Program
(CHIP) should be continued and schools should be permitted to claim
reimbursement from Medicaid.

10. The funding cap for E-Rate should be raised to meet
demand.

We oppose vouchers and federal funding
for non-public schools.

We will continue to be strong advocates
on behalf of our public schools and work with both houses of Congress. We like
much of what is contained in the reauthorization bills that have emerged in the
House and Senate and hope that much of it will remain when ESEA is
reauthorized.

School leaders, tell us what you think by commenting below. How would these tenets change education for children in your district?

Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do
not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its
members.

The opinions expressed in Transforming Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.