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The Time Is Now

Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

SOURCE: AP/David J. Phillip

A teacher reads a book to her first-grade class at Will Rogers Elementary School in Houston.

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See also: It’s Time for Congress to Roll Up Its Sleeves by Jeremy Ayers and Interactive Timeline: Back to School for Congress

Read full recommendations from CAP on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (pdf)

Improving teacher and principal effectiveness (pdf)

Making Title I more fair and efficient (pdf)

Expanding learning time (pdf)

Investing in innovation (pdf)

Turning around low-performing schools (pdf)

Providing wraparound services (pdf)

Our nation does far too little to ensure that all students have access to an excellent education. Only about one in three eighth graders is proficient in reading. Most high schools graduate little more than two-thirds of their students on time. And even the students who do receive a high school diploma lack adequate skills: More than 33 percent of first-year college students require remediation in either math or English. Moreover, low-income and minority students fare worse, sometimes far worse, than their peers on every indicator of achievement.

This must change if our country is going to remain a global economic leader. And we believe federal policy has a role to play in improving America’s schools.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, or ESEA, is the largest federal program designed to improve education, particularly for disadvantaged students. Following the groundbreaking reforms to ESEA in 2001—the No Child Left Behind Act—the latest reauthorization of ESEA was scheduled for 2007, but a variety of events led to its delay. In the meantime, schools have labored to deal with limitations in the current version of the law, such as a one-size-fits-all approach to accountability, a lack of focus on teacher and principal effectiveness, inefficient and unfair funding practices, and inadequate attention to turning around struggling schools.

Therefore, we believe now is the time to reauthorize ESEA. Whether the process is done in one comprehensive bill or broken into smaller segments, the goal should be the same—pass significant education reforms that:

In short, reauthorization offers a seminal opportunity to advance smart, progressive policies that improve the educational outcomes for all of our nation’s students.

This summary of key recommendations for the reauthorization of ESEA accompanies a series of memos detailing our positions on specific reform proposals. These specific recommendations represent a larger body of work conducted by the Center for American Progress over the past six years. But these memos are not meant to be exhaustive or static. They are a distillation of what Congress should consider to pass effective policy, and they are a starting point for conversation. As we complete additional work on ESEA topics we will add recommendations to our body of work.

We look forward to providing more specific guidance and recommendations as congressional action gets underway. The Center for American Progress stands ready to work with Congress to reauthorize ESEA in a timely and thoughtful manner.

Read full recommendations from CAP on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (pdf)

Improving teacher and principal effectiveness (pdf)

Making Title I more fair and efficient (pdf)

Expanding learning time (pdf)

Investing in innovation (pdf)

Turning around low-performing schools (pdf)

Providing wraparound services (pdf)

See also:

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund)
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Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7146 or ashoup@americanprogress.org

Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or cpatterson@americanprogress.org

Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.741.6277 or mmeth@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or lhamilton@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org