Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Without Serious Improvements to ESEA Bills, Congress Risks Hiding Performance of Millions of Disadvantaged Students
Press Release

RELEASE: Without Serious Improvements to ESEA Bills, Congress Risks Hiding Performance of Millions of Disadvantaged Students

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress reveals that both the House and the Senate versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, could have the potential to hide the performance of millions of disadvantaged students. Under the current versions of the ESEA proposals, there is no requirement to intervene and provide more support to schools where groups of students are persistently underperforming. Using the latest student achievement data from the U.S. Department of Education, CAP demonstrates the depth and breadth of gaps between specific groups of students and the rest of their school and the need for strong accountability provisions in the law.

“Rapidly shifting demographics mean that the makeup of our classrooms are changing by the day, and given the ESEA’s historic role as a civil rights bill, Congress has a responsibility to ensure that all students—regardless of background or ZIP code—are reaching the same high standards,” said Scott Sargrad, Director for Standards and Accountability at CAP.

“As Congress continues to work on renewing the ESEA, it must include stronger accountability measures and support to make certain that disadvantaged students don’t slip through the cracks,” added Max Marchitello, Policy Analyst at CAP. “Now is the chance to help states build accountability systems that help improve achievement for underserved students.”

CAP’s research shows that in top-performing schools, historically disadvantaged students perform worse relative to their school’s overall performance than in lower-performing schools. Approximately 1.2 million black students, 1 million Hispanic students, 2.8 million students with disabilities, 1.5 million students with limited English proficiency, and 2.8 million low-income students attend schools where their performance is more than 10 percentage points lower than their school’s overall performance. Additionally, states with smaller black and Hispanic populations often have high proportions of these students in schools where their performance is substantially lower than their school’s overall performance.

In the analysis, CAP calls for Congress to build a more comprehensive system of accountability that requires states and districts to take greater ownership of the education of underperforming students and student subgroups. It also recommends that any new ESEA allow states the flexibility to use multiple measures of performance to identify schools that are low performing—but still should ensure that schools cannot receive high ratings when specific subgroups of students are persistently not making progress.

Specifically, CAP urges that Congress require that districts where a significant number of schools have consistently low overall performance or underperforming student subgroups must provide greater support and evidence-based interventions to these schools. Districts should be required to put in place practices and systems that have evidence of success, such as early warning indicator systems to identify when students are off track; increased instructional time; a more rigorous approach to building the human capital of teachers and administrators; high-dosage tutoring; frequent use of data to inform instruction; and a culture of high expectations for students.

Click here to read “Invisible by Design: How Congress Risks Hiding the Performance of Disadvantaged Students” by Scott Sargrad, Max Marchitello, and Robert Hanna.

Click here to see all of CAP’s work on ESEA reauthorization.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at [email protected] or 202.478.6331.