06.29.16

Murray, Education Dept. Highlight Progress in ESSA Implementation, Continue Push for Accountability & Equity for All Students

At committee hearing, Murray commends Education Department for strong regulations to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged students;

 

Urges continued efforts to ensure collaboration and that voices of all stakeholders are brought into the process

 

Murray: ESSA is an extension of one of the most important goals of our country—ensuring civil rights and equality of opportunity

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing with Secretary of Education John King to discuss ongoing implementation of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s landmark primary education law. In her remarks, Murray stressed ESSA’s civil rights legacy and its focus on improving educational opportunities for students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, English learners, and others. Murray highlighted critical progress in these efforts and urged Secretary King to continue to use the Department’s authority, as outlined in the law, to hold schools and states accountable for providing a quality education to all students. Murray also brought in stories from Washington state parents, teachers, and principals in her remarks, to highlight the importance of stakeholder engagement and the Department’s responsibility to break down barriers to ensure full participation.

 

Click HERE to watch the full video of today’s hearing: “ESSA Implementation: Update from the U.S. Secretary of Education on Proposed Regulations.”

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“ESSA is an extension of one of the most important goals of our country—ensuring civil rights and equality of opportunity for every child. And in order to do that, we need to make sure schools and states are held accountable for providing a quality education to all students no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.”

 

“This is critical—because we know what happens when we don’t have true accountability. Inevitably, it’s the kids from low-income neighborhoods, kids of color, kids with disabilities, and kids learning English who too often fall through the cracks.”

 

“Secretary King—I appreciate the work you’ve done here to prioritize the regulations focused on implementing the federal guardrails in the law and am very glad to see strong regulations coming out that make sure the law operates as it was intended and truly accomplishes the clear accountability goals we laid out. This is very good news for students—and I hope it continues.”

 

“One other issue I want to touch on in my opening is the need for continued collaboration to encourage and ensure the voices of all stakeholders are heard throughout the ESSA implementation process. That is so important—but it won’t happen on its own—it requires the Department to use every available opportunity to assist states and school districts as well as breaking down barriers to ensure full participation.”

 

“When we were working to pass this law, I worked hard to bring in voices of students and those who would be instrumental in implementing it—voices from teachers like Lyon Terry in Seattle whose hard work to get kids excited about coming to school was being labeled as ‘failing’ under our previous broken education law; voices from parents like Duncan, whose son attends Highland Public Schools, where many of the kids in the school district struggle with poverty; and voices from high school principals like Lori Wyborney from Spokane who talked to me about the desperate need for common sense policies for testing in her school.”

 

“These were important voices when we wrote the law—and they are important voices now.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.

 

“Secretary King—thank you for being here, and I look forward to our discussion.

 

“We are here today—almost seven months after the President signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law—for another update on its implementation. As we have talked about before—No Child Left Behind was badly broken, and this law fixes it in so many critical ways.

 

“But a law is only as good as its implementation, so I am very glad we are having this discussion today.

 

“I want to kick this off by focusing on two areas—accountability, and the need for continued collaboration and inclusion as this process continues—and then I will have questions on a few others.

 

“First, as I have talked about since before we passed this law—ESSA is an extension of one of the most important goals of our country—ensuring civil rights and equality of opportunity for every child. And in order to do that, we need to make sure schools and states are held accountable for providing a quality education to all students no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.

 

“This is critical—because we know what happens when we don’t have true accountability. Inevitably, it’s the kids from low-income neighborhoods, kids of color, kids with disabilities, and kids learning English who too often fall through the cracks.

 

“We know we can do better as a country—but we also know we’re not there yet.

 

“Secretary King—I appreciate the work you’ve done here to prioritize the regulations focused on implementing the federal guardrails in the law and am very glad to see strong regulations coming out that make sure the law operates as it was intended and truly accomplishes the clear accountability goals we laid out. This is very good news for students—and I hope it continues.

 

“I am, however, concerned about a few provisions in the draft regulations that could derail these efforts. For example—allowing states to compare the performance of individual subgroups to the average performance of all the students in the state. ESSA was clear—the performance of every single student and every single subgroup of students matters. But allowing states to measure subgroup performance by comparing to the average performance of all students could lower the expectations for students because many students could be underperforming, driving down the average performance level within a state. That’s why instead, all student subgroups should be expected to meet state standards and academic goals established by the state, regardless of how they compare to other students in the state.

 

“I’ll have a question on this where we can go into more details—but this is something that I will be taking a close look at as well as other regulations from the Department for school interventions and supports. Because, again—the intent of this law was clear—it needs to actually help students succeed. And we need strong regulations flowing from that goal if we want this law to do what so many of us hope it will.

 

“One other issue I want to touch on in my opening is the need for continued collaboration to encourage and ensure the voices of all stakeholders are heard throughout the ESSA implementation process. That is so important—but it won’t happen on its own—it requires the Department to use every available opportunity to assist states and school districts as well as breaking down barriers to ensure full participation.

 

“I am pleased that the Department sent a letter to states last week highlighting the importance of stakeholder engagement. The letter provides helpful suggestions to states to improve stakeholder engagement, including holding meetings at varying times during the days, providing accommodations and supports to participants, and ensuring transparency in the process and timeline for engaging in the plan development process. Getting input from teachers, civil rights groups, parents, and many more will be essential in making sure the law works in the coming months and years. This is something I feel passionately about.

 

“When we were working to pass this law, I worked hard to bring in voices of students and those who would be instrumental in implementing it—voices from teachers like Lyon Terry in Seattle whose hard work to get kids excited about coming to school was being labeled as ‘failing’ under our previous broken education law; voices from parents like Duncan, whose son attends Highland Public Schools, where many of the kids in the school district struggle with poverty; and voices from high school principals like Lori Wyborney from Spokane who talked to me about the desperate need for common sense policies for testing in her school.

 

“These were important voices when we wrote the law—and they are important voices now. So I am very glad that the Department is focused on true collaboration—and I hope that continues.

 

“I’m also glad that last week, the Department, in collaboration with HHS, provided clarity for how states, school districts, and child welfare agencies can implement the new foster care requirements under ESSA by working together to support foster children and enhance their educational success.

 

“Now, this Administration has a little less than 7 months left in office. But that is still plenty of time to make progress on these and several other key areas. And I’m confident we can.

 

“I’m confident because of people like Lyon, Duncan, Lori and so many others across the country—including many in this room—who speak out for change and empower our nation’s students and schools. They inspire me to keep fighting. I know this is a priority, not just for the members of this committee and the Department, but for our entire country.

 

“So, Secretary King, I thank you again for being here today, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from you on the steps you’re taking to implement our new bipartisan law, so that it works for all students, and what we can all do to help.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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