August 1, 2016

Three things teachers had to say about accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act

In response to proposed accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, a team of Educators 4 Excellence teachers from around the country sent the following letter to U.S. Secretary of Education John King. In the letter, they urge federal policymakers not to miss key opportunities for teacher voice, resources and school climate. Read the full letter below.

The Honorable John King
Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary King and leaders in the Department of Education,

We, as educators, believe that it is our duty to prepare our students for college, the workplace and beyond.

As current classroom teachers from across the United States, we convened last fall to develop recommendations on ESEA. Our collective recommendations, From Classroom to Congress: ESEA Policy at Play, fell into three big ideas: 1) Do not dilute Title I funds; 2) Strengthen school accountability for traditionally underserved students; and 3) Elevate teaching and promote teacher leadership.

The proposed regulations you put forth reflect many of the priorities articulated by representative teachers on behalf of the E4E membership (more than 20,000 educators across the country) and they are an important step toward ensuring that all students are counted and that parents and communities can hold their schools accountable for meeting the needs of their students. We ask the Department to continue to keep the interests of traditionally underserved students at the forefront when regulating the new law.

We have three recommendations on how to strengthen the regulations.

1. We appreciate that the regulations require states to consult in a timely and meaningful way with parents and families, educators, community-based organizations, civil rights organizations, American Indian tribes, and school leaders and we ask that you also name these same stakeholder groups from whom states must gather input when structuring the state report cards. In particular, we ask that you name current, practicing, K-12 teachers as a required stakeholder group for developing state report cards.

2. We applaud guidance regarding schools identified for comprehensive support, but we must go farther. In addition to requiring state improvement plans to review inequities with per-pupil expenditures and access to strong teachers, we know there are additional indicators of a high quality school that all children deserve, such as: access to technology, access to music and art, and access to enrichment and advanced learning opportunities. Access to these kinds of resources should also be explicitly highlighted in the regulations.

3. We believe that the regulations should provide more direction regarding how states should support local educational agencies in improving school climates for student learning, including the need to reduce disciplinary practices that push students out of school. Teachers need resources and support in order to implement practices to reduce disparities in school discipline that contribute to the school to prison pipeline.

ESSA provides our public schools with an opportunity to advance an equity-driven agenda under federal education law, and we must take advantage of this rare moment to regulate state policies.

We look forward to continued partnership.

Sincerely,

Members of the Educators 4 Excellence Teacher Action Team on the Every Student Succeeds Act

There's still a few hours left to add your voice—go here to submit your comments via the Federal Register.