Statement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) at the HELP Committee Roundtable Hearing on ESEA Reauthorization: Meeting the Needs of the Whole Student

As Prepared for Delivery

“I’d like to thank all of you for being here today as we continue to discuss the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Through our previous hearings, we have gained valuable insight into the need for education reform, the Administration’s views on how best to meet this challenge, various efforts to turn around our lowest-performing schools, and how to recruit and develop talented educators and school leaders.  This afternoon we will hear from experts who specialize in addressing the needs of the whole student. 

“Research proves that students learn best when their academic, emotional, physical and social needs are all met.  Twenty-first century jobs require that our students graduate with not only a strong foundation in reading, writing, math and other core subjects, but also the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and solve complex problems. More importantly, our civic strength rests on educating our children to appreciate the rich world around them.  The current No Child Left Behind Act mostly focuses on academic achievement.  That is, obviously, critically important.  But is only a part of a complete educational system.

“One of the most stinging criticisms leveled at the No Child Left Behind Act is that it has caused schools, especially those serving disadvantaged students, to narrow curriculum and rely on ‘drill and kill’ approaches to teaching.  Obviously these changes are not requirements of the federal law, but it is important to explore why it is happening and what we can do about it.  For example, is it a result of trying to teach a set of skills and knowledge needed for a 21st Century economy in a school day designed for the industrial age and a school year based on an agrarian calendar?  Do schools need more time to help students reach higher expectations?  Or is it because educators do not have the curricular tools and training they need to create rich, interdisciplinary courses that teach reading and math without losing students’ interest?  And if schools are not meeting students’ basic health, nutrition and other needs – things that are necessary for academic success – are there approaches, such as those pioneered by the Harlem Children’s Zone or Communities in Schools, that can help them succeed?  I believe it is essential that we support every aspect of the development of our students to maximize their chances at success.  Our witnesses today are each helping to meet that goal in different ways.

“I look forward to hearing from our guests about their thoughts on what it takes to address the needs of students to improve their academic standing and well-being, and how we can best measure the effectiveness of programs that are addressing these issues.”

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