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Press Release

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

CCSSO Supports a Bipartisan Approach to Accountability in ESEA Reauthorization

Contact:Melissa McGrathmelissa.mcgrath@ccsso.org202-336-7034

Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2015) - The U.S. Senate today is scheduled to begin debate on the Every Child Achieves Act today, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), issued the following statement on reauthorization: 

"The U.S. Senate today is expected to begin debate today on the Every Child Achieves Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). I applaud Chairman Alexander and Senator Murray for ushering forward this bipartisan legislation. Congress must reauthorize ESEA this year to provide states with a stable federal education law that gives state and local educators the flexibility they need to improve education for all students. This bill can accomplish that.

While the Every Child Achieves Act is a strong bill, state education leaders recognize it is likely to change before it is approved on the Senate floor. One topic in particular is sure to come up during the debate: accountability. In January, CCSSO released its key priorities for reauthorizing ESEA. State education chiefs strongly support accountability and remain committed to making sure every child succeeds in college, careers and life. In the ESEA reauthorization priorities we released in January, we outlined an appropriate balance between the state and federal role when it comes to accountability in education. Specifically, states need flexibility to design and implement state-developed accountability systems, yet there are certain things every accountability system should address. We believe every accountability system should make annual determinations of progress, support students to make progress toward college- and career-readiness for all students, continue to publicly report and disaggregate assessment data and graduation rates for all students and subgroups, reward highest-performing schools, identify lowest-performing schools, and require and support districts as they help lowest-performing schools improve.

Since its introduction, the Every Child Achieves Act has met most of these priorities, and CCSSO has voiced strong support for this legislation. Today, the bill includes parameters for state accountability systems to continue to report annual assessment outcomes for all students, disaggregate data for subgroups of students, and be transparent about high school graduation rates. Still, some have questioned whether or not this bill includes enough in the way of accountability. As state leaders in education, we believe this bill includes many solid provisions but can also be improved upon before final passage.

As the Every Child Achieves Act is debated on the Senate floor this week, we believe there are three changes that could further improve this legislation and ensure all states continue to improve education for all kids. Each is in line with the priorities we outlined in January. First, CCSSO would support identifying at least 5 percent of the schools in each state as lowest-performing. This will ensure every state identifies its lowest-performing schools yet maintains the flexibility to determine the best way to work with local school districts to improve academic progress for the students in these schools.  

Second, CCSSO would support a benchmark for high school graduates. For example, if a school is below a 67 percent graduation rate in a given year, the state will be able to work more closely with this school and its local district to offer additional support and evidence-based interventions. Third, CCSSO would support an additional state-determined measure that makes sure each state accountability system addresses significant and persistent achievement gaps, based on multiple measures of student achievement. This will ensure states focus on closing achievement gaps, while giving states and local school districts the flexibility and authority on how and when to intervene.

These changes will further improve the Every Child Achieves Act to maintain an appropriate balance between the state and federal role in education while making sure states continue to focus on graduation rates, lowest-performing schools and closing achievement gaps. Every state education chief is committed to accountability so we can work together with local educators in closing these gaps and making sure every child succeeds. We look forward to continuing our work with Chairman Alexander, Senator Murray and all members of the U.S. Senate as they find the best solution for our states, our schools, and most importantly, our students."

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.