Statement of Michael B. Enzi
ESEA Reauthorization: The Obama Administration’s ESEA
Secretary Duncan, thank you for being with us today to discuss the Administration’s Blueprint for Reform for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA. This blueprint will help the Committee move forward to develop legislation that builds upon what we have learned from the latest version of ESEA, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and fixes what isn’t working.
In 2001 when NCLB was enacted, legislators from both sides of the aisle, despite over 35 years of Federal investment, saw little, if anything, in return for this investment in K-12 education. Many felt that a strong federal hand was called for because states and local school districts were not getting the job done. There was little flexibility given to states or school districts in how they implemented the requirements of NCLB. Fast forward to today. What we have learned is that a better balance is needed between prescriptive federal mandates and state and local flexibility.
The blueprint seems to reflect this belief with your ‘tight on goals, loose on means’ philosophy. Overall, the blueprint contains a lot for us to think about and use as we deliberate how to make sure our investment makes a difference in the education our children receive. I want to mention just a few issues today, but believe this is just the beginning of an extended conversation.
As we work through the reauthorization of ESEA I will be paying close attention to the impact of the changes we make on rural schools, districts and states. NCLB has been criticized for being a one-size-fits-all law, a claim that has rung especially true in rural areas. I appreciate that the blueprint tries to recognize the unique nature of rural schools and districts. However, despite these good efforts I will continue to focus on where additional adjustments may be needed.
One thing I have heard consistently from teachers, principals, superintendents and parents across Wyoming is the need to utilize a growth model in accountability systems. I believe that student academic growth measurements can be used for accountability, and as part of what states consider as they develop teacher effectiveness metrics. The federal government’s role should be to encourage and support states and school districts so that more students graduate from high school on time with the knowledge and skills they need to attend college and enter the workforce without the need for remediation. This is a critical goal as the ability of our economy to grow depends on an educated and skilled workforce.
Secretary Duncan, thank you for appearing before our Committee today to discuss your ideas for the reauthorization of ESEA. I am anxious to listen to the dialogue today and look forward to working with you to fix the law to make it work better for superintendents, principals, teachers, parents, and students.