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ESEA Reauthorization on the Horizon:  SPSSI Can Help

By Christopher Woodside, SPSSI Policy Coordinator



With legislators, advocacy organizations and the Department of Education all gearing up to address the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), or No Child Left Behind as it has more recently become known, now is a particularly good time to explore the application of important education-based social justice research to the various policy elements of the legislation.  Many areas of the reauthorization work would stand to benefit tremendously from the dissemination of SPSSI research and the expertise of our members, and we are currently exploring various methods of becoming more involved in the information gathering process associated with the beginning of this new effort.

Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called together the education advocacy community for the first in a series of ESEA Stakeholder meetings (which SPSSI staff has been attending) aimed at addressing the many components of a new reauthorization attempt and what they will entail.  At this initial meeting, the Secretary spoke of his ESEA wish list, which included an increased emphasis on obtaining more funding for various local and national programs, a desire to reform the current law so as to make it more accommodating to various teaching and learning styles, and a general streamlining of a number of education policies thus far only broadly defined by the parameters of the recent economic stimulus package.

While the new version of ESEA is unlikely to feature wholesale change (President Obama’s administration has made passage of the revamped legislation a priority, so a true overhaul is nearly impossible due to time constraints), many social justice-related issues must be addressed within the confines of the current structure of the law.  The new version of ESEA is likely to continue the previous trend of prioritizing accountability issues and student achievement, but with perhaps increased flexibility in some areas.  Secretary Duncan also stated in his remarks that equity in public education would be made a top priority this time around—an important message for SPSSI members to hear.

During the upcoming reauthorization process, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) indicators are likely to be altered significantly, the definition of Highly Qualified Teachers (HQT) is a virtual lock to be redrafted from the ground up, special education, RtI and IDEA will all be given top priority status for the first time in a long while, and charter schools and teacher incentives will continue to receive a great deal of attention.  Since this new law will technically still be built within the original framework of NCLB, undoubtedly, standards, assessment measures and school performance indicators will remain the primary building blocks of the legislation.
Already, many SPSSI members have contacted the Central Office to inform us of their interest in sharing personal education research with ESEA reformers and education advocates.  There are countless topics of importance that these individuals and organizations would benefit from having fresh data on.  Issues of racial equality in schools, high stakes testing, the effects of poverty on student performance, immigration and education, learning disabled student learning, and social dominance are just a few examples of SPSSI member researched areas of education policy that could be highly useful to those working within the education community.

Speculation currently revolves around January 2010 as the most likely time period for the introduction of new ESEA language in the House and Senate.  George Miller of California, the House Education Committee Chairman and leader of the previous effort to reauthorize NCLB, is likely to be out in front again this time around.  Under this scenario, the goal might be to achieve final passage of the new legislation by the Memorial Day recess.  These dates, of course, are still largely based upon guess work, however, and remain highly subject to change.

While the early stages of the reauthorization discussion have only recently begun to take shape, SPSSI is already making strides towards increasing our availability to education policy specialists.  Amongst several ideas currently under consideration is the possibility that SPSSI could host a Washington, DC-based education stakeholders forum several months from now intended to provide advocates with the opportunity to articulate their particular strategies for pursuing changes to ESEA, while also networking and brainstorming with their colleagues in the field. 

SPSSI’s role in hosting such an event would be to provide the education community with access to some of our member experts, who in turn could use the experience as an opportunity to present their own research to the assembled audience and to offer themselves up as expert resources.  Through this process, education advocacy organizations and policymakers alike would become more aware of SPSSI’s presence in Washington, DC, and more specifically, of our ability to aid lawmakers in the development of key pieces of legislation through the research of our members.

If you or a colleague would be interested in pursuing participation with the SPSSI ESEA reauthorization initiative currently in development, please contact Policy Coordinator Chris Woodside at cwoodside@spssi.org with your personal information and a bit of background pertaining to your research on education.  We will make certain to keep everyone interested in the project informed as the reauthorization moves forward.  We are greatly appreciative of the strong member interest in this incredibly important subject matter and are very excited about the possibilities for SPSSI involvement.

 


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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin