ESEA Reauthorization

The State Board of Education continues to analyze the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization process. A key aspect of this work is to make understandable a very complicated bill by dividing it into major conceptual segments for the Board’s next discussion in March.

How can we simplify this big law? To start, thanks to Andy Smarick, for putting together a helpful policy continuum graph (below) on the major issues at play in the ESEA reauthorization.

ESEA.Smarick.Graph

Smarick’s graph gives a sense of where on the policy continuum these various issues could land. He identifies the two extreme positions, and then attempts to create potential pragmatic landing spots in the center. Smarick created this graph in response to another helpful graph by Mike Petrilli.

Petrilli’s graph can probably best be described as ESEA policy odds-making: among the issues in play, what is likely to survive, what is not likely to survive, and what could go either way.

Together, these graphs are an excellent introduction to the ESEA reauthorization discussion. Checker Finn notes that a lot of important policy is being overlooked as many focus on testing issues, ignoring existing policy in federal law on English language learners, impact aid policy, etc.

Why do we care so much about federal policy? Although the State Board of Education is a state policy agency, federal K-12 law frames state policy discussions in a way that can limit – or even eliminate – options before we even start.

The goal of aligning Washington’s system into one unified accountability picture has to start with understanding what we need to do for federal Title 1 schools. That’s something we started when we implemented the Achievement Index. For example, we establish policy for the lowest performing five percent of schools in the state. Of those, let’s say two-thirds are title schools. In order to establish a truly aligned system, we need to start with the requirements of Title 1 schools and build from there to craft a unified policy for all impacted schools. In this way, the ESEA law can affect policy decisions for all schools.

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