A longtime advocate of education reform and college completion, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) joined other moderate Democratic Senators and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the Walker-Jones Education Campus in the District of Columbia on Wednesday to unveil a package of education reform principles designed to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and better educate our children.
"The students here today are still living in an education system not yet aligned to give them the opportunities that they deserve in this country," Senator Coons said. "At home in Delaware, we succeed in the Race to the Top competition, because of our tireless work to make education reform a top priority. I want to bring that type of dedication to fixing our national education system and correcting the obvious flaws of No Child Left Behind. If we don't, we will be failing those very children that will gather here later today to read and to dream."
Senator Coons and Secretary Duncan were joined at the event by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA.), and Joe Manchin (D-WV). 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 necessary 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.
The full text of those principles can be found here:
The press conference came a day after Senator Coons participated in a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee to review the President's FY2012 budget proposal for the Department of Education.
"I am extremely pleased to see that this budget continues on the President's public commitment to invest in world-class education for all our students and I look forward to working with you [Secretary Duncan] on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization," Senator Coons said during the hearing.
The Administration's proposed budget for education echoes the President's commitment to "winning the future" by ensuring the United States has a highly educated workforce of citizens who receive degrees in higher education. The budget proposes an increase in education spending by approximately $7.5 billion to $77.4 billion for FY2012.
The greatest funding increases in Delaware would be for programs for students with disabilities, a new Title I rewards program, school turnaround grants, and new student loans.