Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and other moderate Democratic Senators held a press conference to outline their specific goals for education reform in the 112th Congress. Joining the Senators at the press conference was U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a long time champion of education reform efforts. As Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee work progresses on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Senators sent a statement with their goals for reform to HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), ranking member Mike Enzi (R-WY) and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). For the full text of the statement, click here.
In addition to Sens. Carper and Education Secretary Duncan, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Kay R. Hagan (D-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) participated in the press conference today at a Washington, D.C. pre-K-8 school, Walker-Jones Education Campus, to introduce their goals, which Secretary Duncan supports.
"As the President mentioned just over a month ago in his State of the Union speech, our future depends on continued American competitiveness and success," said Sen. Carper. "If we're really serious about out-innovating the rest of the world, we need to start by out-educating them. That means a major focus on early childhood education so that when kids walk into the first grade at age six, they are ready to compete. It means having in place rigorous standards, across the board, so that our students truly are getting the highest quality education.
"It also means having a great principal at every school -- one that can lead their school to success, and support the teachers who have dedicated their lives to our children's future," continued Sen. Carper. "Finally, it means re-investing in the training and recruitment of high-quality teachers, especially at schools with high-needs students.
"For our country to succeed, we must reauthorize and improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and once again lead the world in K-12 education. The principles that my colleagues and I have laid out will help get us there, along with leadership from the Administration and Sec. Arne Duncan. I'm hopeful that those principles can serve as a basis for the core elements of a reauthorization package.
"Education reform is an issue that we can, and must, do on a bipartisan basis, and I urge my colleagues to focus on the areas where we agree. Ultimately, we must work together to transform our K-12 public schools so that fewer students drop out and those who do graduate are able to read, write, do math, use technology, and go on to become productive members of our society."
The principles address five key components of ESEA reauthorization: Accountability Structure, School Turnaround, Teachers and Leaders, Innovation and Equity in Resources. Also supporting these education reform principles are the following moderate Senators: Herb Kohl (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mark Begich (D-AK).
The moderate Senators are putting forth an innovative vision for education that sets a high bar for all students and attracts and supports the most talented teachers and leaders in our schools. The Senators' Statement of Principles addresses several problems in No Child Left Behind, including the lack of an accountability system that is accurate and fair in measuring student growth. The Senators support the development of meaningful ways to measure teacher and principal effectiveness, while providing necessary support for educators, especially those in high-need schools. They believe aggressive action is critical if we are to turn around persistently low-performing schools, and that the federal government should support and encourage innovative state and local efforts to improve schools through programs such as the Race to the Top.
Below is a summary of the Senators' principles:
Accountability Structure: Reward growth and progress. The No Child Left Behind Act treated all schools that failed to make adequate yearly progress the same and did not tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of schools. The old accountability system fails to recognize growth and constantly labels failure. A new accountability structure needs to provide more flexibility for schools to determine the best way to meet the needs of their students, instead of a one-size-fits all approach from Washington.
School Turnaround: Support bold, aggressive action to change the odds for students in schools that persistently fail to provide a quality education. Under current law, states and districts frequently choose the least intensive option for reform.
Teachers and Leaders: Dramatically improve our system for recruiting, training, supporting, retaining and paying teachers and leaders. Competitive funds to create and replicate effective teacher and leader preparation programs is an essential element. Require better teacher and leader evaluation systems that include examination of student learning gains and provide extra compensation for those who take on additional responsibilities.
Foster Innovation: Create opportunities for states, districts and schools that want to push beyond the status quo through innovative and promising new approaches.
Equity in Resources (Close the Title I Comparability Loophole): Closing the loophole to require school districts to report actual expenditures at the school-level, including those devoted to salaries for teachers, when applying for Title I funding. Title I, the largest program in ESEA, provides grants to districts with children living in concentrated poverty. Closing this loophole will result in more equitable funding between schools.
"I want to thank this group of moderate Democratic Senators for their leadership on these important issues and applaud their sense of urgency and commitment to reform," said Secretary Duncan. "I also very much appreciate the strong leadership and hard work of both Chairman Harkin and Chairman Kline, as well as Senator Enzi and Congressman Miller, and I appreciate these Senators' desire to work with their colleagues in a bipartisan way to fix the law this year."