President's Corner

In the Shadow of Reauthorization

BY DAVID K. PENNINGTON

President's Corner

“All public schools must provide a quality educational experience for each student, which necessitates a framework of rigorous academic standards infused with life and career skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, innovation and self-direction. A system of accountability which clearly demonstrates, through multiple measures, the level of progress attained by students is essential to fulfilling the mission of schools to increase student achievement and equip graduates with the skills required to be college and workforce ready.”

This is AASA’s belief statement for student learning and accountability, one of six belief statements developed by the AASA Governing Board and Executive Committee. These statements guide the AASA advocacy team as they work with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government on behalf of our members and the students they serve.

Since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002, AASA has worked tirelessly to promote commonsense changes to the law. During the reauthorization process, the association has supported changes that would restore the federal government to its traditional role of providing support for children, especially children in poverty, instead of its current role as overseer of the nation’s public schools.

It appears as if Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) will make a serious attempt to get legislation through Congress and to the president that will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year. As I write this column, one of the major areas (if not the major area) of contention will be assessment and accountability.

On one side of the issue is what I call the school advocate group — parents, teachers and administrator organizations who believe there is too much testing in our schools and that the use of assessments for high-stakes decision making is narrowing the curriculum, putting too much pressure on children and causing teachers to leave the profession early.

On the other side are the multiple-issue advocacy groups. These organizations advocate for education, but also advocate for other issues and usually consider education as a small part of their agenda. This includes civil rights groups and ideological and nonpartisan think tanks and foundations. These groups contend that every student should be assessed every year and that having high-stakes consequences for students, teachers, schools and school districts ultimately will result in better education outcomes for students.

I strongly support AASA’s prescription for the reauthorization of ESEA as it relates to accountability and assessment. We need to end our reliance on one-time snapshot testing and separate assessments for accountability and assessments to improve instruction. Our accountability systems should focus on student growth, and assessments of students with disabilities should be driven by their Individualized Education Program.

In 2002, it was AASA’s Federal Relations Committee that decided the association would take a stand against support of NCLB. Today, the AASA Executive Committee will make the final decision whether to support whatever legislation makes it through Congress. I want to know what you think about reauthorization.

Please take a moment to review AASA’s legislative agenda and the association’s belief and position statements at www.aasa.org.  

Please study these documents and share your support or concerns with a Governing Board member from your state, the Executive Committee member from your region or with me.

If the past is any indicator of the future, the final version of the reauthorized ESEA will be federal educational policy for at least the next decade.

DAVID PENNINGTON is AASA president for 2014-15. E-mail: pennid@pcps.us. Twitter: @DavidPennid