Action Alert: Demand An Equal Education for All Children

studentAccording to “The Learning Curve,” publishing firm Pearson’s global ranking of education systems, the so-called greatest nation in the world is anything but exceptional when it comes to teaching our children. The latest list shows that as of 2014, the top 10 educational systems, in order, are: South Korea, Japan, Singapore,  Hong Kong-China, Finland, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Ireland, and Poland. The US ranks 14th in the world — which is an improvement over its 17th place ranking in 2012. Even that slight improvement, however, may be endangered by legislation on Capitol Hill recently passed by a bipartisan majority of the US Senate. The House passed its own version, which now must be merged with the Senate bill.The Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 has a local connection, having been crafted by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, working with Washington state Democrat Patty Murray. The measure is intended to rework the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a rewrite and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  If enacted, the new measure would again reboot ESEA while removing many of NCLB’s accountability features — including loss of federal funding — that plagued state school systems that didn’t meet national standardized testing benchmarks.

This lack of federal accountability and the continued reliance on standardized testing do not sit well with a host of grassroots civil rights and youth organizations across the country. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights headlined an open letter to congressional leaders:

The Journey for Justice Alliance, an alliance of 38 organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states, joins with the 175 other national and local grassroots community, youth and civil rights organizations signed on below, to call on the US Congress to pass an ESEA reauthorization without requiring the regime of oppressive, high stakes, standardized testing and sanctions that have recently been promoted as civil rights provisions within ESEA.

We respectfully disagree that the proliferation of high stakes assessments and top-down interventions are needed in order to improve our schools. We live in the communities where these schools exist. What, from our vantage point, happens because of these tests is not improvement. It’s destruction.

Black and Latino families want world class public schools for our children, just as white and affluent families do. We want quality and stability. We want a varied and rich curriculum in our schools. We don’t want them closed or privatized. We want to spend our days learning, creating and debating, not preparing for test after test.

Education Week‘s Politics K-12 blog addresses the challenges that lie before the Senate-House conference committee tasked with drafting a final education bill from the two very different versions passed by the separate legislative houses.

Chief among those disparities is how to beef up accountability in a way that appeases the concerns of Democrats and the civil rights community, who demanded that the end result must include stronger federal guardrails for the most disadvantaged students, while at the same time ensuring the small federal footprint that Republicans are adamant about.

The conference appointees will also debate whether to maintain two provisions in the House bill that are not in the Senate bill: One that would allow Title I dollars for low-income children to follow them to the school of their choice, and another that would eliminate language in the current law that allows the federal government to punish schools and states where lots of students are opting out of tests.

 While the House and Senate iron out their differences, it is up to citizen activists to speak their piece. A petition on The Petition Site seeks to remind Congress that ECAA, like ESEA, is supposed to be civil rights legislation that ensures that even the poorest kids in the US have access to an equal education. Get busy and sign the petition: Tell lawmakers to strengthen accountability and provide support for closing the educational opportunity gap for underserved students.

And by all means, call your legislators in Washington or via their local offices and tell them how you feel on this  Contact information is available via Congress Merge.


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