College & Workforce Readiness

No Child Left Behind Rewrite Wins Support of High School Advocates

By Catherine Gewertz — December 02, 2015 3 min read
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As Congress begins debating the new bill to replace No Child Left Behind, two key groups that push for better opportunities for high school students issued endorsements of the legislation.

The Every Student Succeeds Act won the support of the Alliance for Excellent Education, and the Association for Career and Technical Education.

“This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act places an important emphasis on the nation’s lowest-performing high schools. In doing so, ESSA will support the work of educators across America to continue increasing the nation’s high school graduation rate and ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed in postsecondary education and the workforce,” the Alliance said in its endorsement letter.

The Alliance commended the bill for requiring state intervention in high schools that graduate fewer than two-thirds of their students, and on maintaining the requirement that schools calculate their four-year and extended-year graduation rates in the same, uniform way. It also applauded a provision that requires states to develop plans that “address the transition from middle to high school and from high school to postsecondary education, noting the importance of integrating rigorous academics, career and technical education, and work-based learning.”

See the Alliance’s letter for a full bullet-point list of requirements it commends in the bill.

It did issue one cautionary note, however. With an Elementary and Secondary Education Act that hands so much power and discretion to states, it will be crucial to work closely with local communities to ensure appropriate accountability, the group said.

“ESSA provides states and districts with a great degree of flexibility and responsibility,” the Alliance’s statement said. “Developing such state-set policies that relate to ‘n-size,’ achievement and graduation goals, timelines for progress, and school improvement strategies warrants the strong involvement of diverse communities and education experts.”

Career and Technical Education Provisions

In its statement of support, the ACTE noted several sections of the bill that bolster career and technical education.

In the section of the Every Student Succeeds Act that deals with accountability, for instance, the bill specifically includes CTE in its language about academic expectations:

“Each state shall demonstrate that the challenging state academic standards are aligned with entrance requirements for credit-bearing coursework in the system of public higher education in the state and relevant state career and technical education standards.”

In the section that deals with state report cards, ESSA requires states to include “any additional information” the state “believes will best provide parents, students, and other members of the public with information regarding the progress” of its elementary and secondary schools. That information “may include the number and percentage of students attaining career and technical proficiencies.”

The bill encourages integration of academic subjects and CTE “through coordinated instructional strategies, that may incorporate experiential learning opportunities and promote skills attainment important to in-demand occupations or industries,” or “work-based learning opportunities that provide students in-depth interaction with industry professionals and, if appropriate, academic credit.” And it allows for state grants to provide professional development aimed at integrating CTE and academic subjects.

A new emphasis in the legislation on building “well-rounded” students makes it clear that career and technical education are part of that definition. The section on career guidance and counseling ticks off a range of programs and activities, such as guidance focusing on college and financial aid, but also on “career awareness and exploration activities,” and on “training counselors to effectively use labor market information in assisting students with postsecondary education and career planning.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.