Chairman Miller, Senior Republican Member McKeon and other distinguished Members of the Committee. On behalf of the Business Coalition for Student Achievement (BCSA), I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Coalition’s views on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and specifically our views on the Committee’s staff discussion draft for reauthorization of Title I of this law. I also am here because education reform is such a high priority for the CEO members of the Business Roundtable.
The BCSA represents business leaders from every sector of the economy and believes that improving the performance of the K-12 education system in the United States is necessary to provide a strong foundation for both U.S. competitiveness and for individuals to succeed in our rapidly changing world.
As employers, we understand the important role the U.S. business community must play in ensuring the American education system prepares our youth to meet the challenges of higher education and the workplace. It is for this reason BCSA has been a staunch supporter of education reform and continues to stand firmly behind the principles underlying the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
We are also part of a broad coalition – NCLB Works – which includes business, education, community, and civil rights groups working to strengthen and reauthorize the Act. We share the common belief that this law has been instrumental in focusing our nation on improving academic achievement for all students and we stand behind NCLB’s goal of all students being able to read and do math on grade level by the 2013-2014 school year.
As this Committee moves forward with reauthorization, we strongly urge that you resist any changes to the law that would undermine or reduce this fundamental focus. At the same time, there are areas where NCLB needs improvement and expanded flexibility, and we formally shared our ideas with the Committee earlier this year. For example, BCSA supports allowing States to implement well-designed growth models to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP). We also believe school districts should have the ability to target the most significant interventions to those schools that are the furthest behind in ensuring all of their students are proficient.
BCSA is pleased that discussion draft includes:
math and reading proficiency by 2013-14
postsecondary and workplace readiness
accountability and rigor for high school
student growth models
However, as we detailed in our formal comments to the Committee, we are deeply concerned about provisions included in the draft that we believe would undermine the current accountability for all students to reach proficiency. The draft provides a path by which States could create accountability systems so complex as to be rendered meaningless.
While we do not believe it is the intent of the Committee to reduce accountability, BCSA has serious concerns about the draft’s cumulative impact on accountability for improved academic achievement for all students.
I want to make it very clear that the business community supports a core curriculum for all students, and employers are looking for skills beyond those in the current law. However, any additional measures must be additions to, not subtractions from, the current requirements. For example, we believe that science should be added to the current accountability system. Science should not just be an optional indicator for extra credit if a school falls short of its reading and math targets.
Our test for supporting the bill as it is currently drafted is based on two key questions: First, do the proposals advance or dilute accountability? Second, are they based on or do they generate sound data? The current draft does not pass that test. That being said, we have been very pleased with the dialogue we have had with you and your staff since the release of the discussion draft and remain hopeful that our concerns can be addressed prior to the bill’s introduction and that BCSA can lend the full and enthusiastic support of the business community behind the reauthorization of this important law.
As outlined in greater detail as part of our submitted comments, the following areas are those in which we have the greatest concern. In particular, the discussion draft:
Creates too many opportunities for schools to game the system, obscuring the fact that students are not progressing toward being able to read and do math on grade level. It allows schools that do not meet their annual measurable objectives in reading and math to be considered as meeting their targets based upon other measures, including local assessments;
Significantly weakens the process for identifying schools in need of improvement. It allows schools to ignore shortfalls in proficiency in math and reading just because the lack of improvement happens to shift subgroups from year to year. It overly limits the identification of schools in need of the most assistance to improve student achievement;
Dramatically reduces the availability of public school choice and supplemental educational services and substantially reduces funding available for such options; and
Establishes a difficult to understand, explain, and implement multiple measures framework. This framework runs counter to NCLB’s current transparent accountability system. It also creates a confusing accountability system to address the critical need to increase high school graduation rates.
We want to ensure this reauthorization does not result in masking what NCLB has exposed. The fact is that too many students – many from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – are not getting a high-quality education and are moving through our schools without the basic skills necessary to be successful and productive citizens.
Mr. Chairman, you have conducted a remarkably open process and we have great respect for your leadership and commitment, as well as that of Representative McKeon. The reauthorization of NCLB provides an opportunity to take the next, and important, step of not just identifying schools in need of improvement, but ensuring they have the tools necessary to reach higher levels of achievement.
Again, thank you for this opportunity to testify, and we look forward to working with the Committee as this reauthorization moves forward.