WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), along with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), introduced an amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act that would require states to identify and support schools that fail their most vulnerable students. In an effort to close the achievement gap and enable our most vulnerable students to succeed, the senators’ amendment would ensure that local schools with low graduation rates, low-performing subgroups, or well-below average achievement are identified, made eligible for funding, and receive additional support through accountability and improvement systems set up by the states.
Currently, significant gaps in achievement and attainment exist between students based on race, ethnicity, disability, and income. Overall, 37% of high school students are black or Hispanic, yet this population represents only 18% of the students who receive a passing score on Advanced Placement exams. Furthermore, 70% of the students who attend high schools with low graduation rates come from low-income families. In order to address these academic disparities and protect underserved populations of students, the amendment will hold states accountable for the performance of individual student subgroups while providing flexibility for states to prescribe their own interventions and supports.
“Education is a civil rights issue, and right now, some states and school systems aren’t doing enough to ensure that all kids have the opportunity to excel,” said Murphy. “Every single child – no matter their race or geography – deserves a first rate education, and my amendment is a logical step toward ensuring that all of our students get the top-notch education they are entitled to without being hindered by the stringent, inflexible requirements of No Child Left Behind.”
“Educating the next generation is something we have to get right, and I won’t stop working until every child receives the education they need to reach their full potential,” Murphy added.
“Our greatest national asset is the promise and potential of our young people,” Booker said. “Our amendment calls for the kind of accountability and support needed to ensure local schools close the achievement gap that is so pervasive in low-income communities and communities of color. That is the best way we can guarantee all young people are given a fair chance to reach their full potential. We must provide pathways for all of our children to succeed and improve schools that continue to fail our students.”
Warren said, “When ESEA passed 50 years ago, it was a landmark civil rights achievement. The federal government committed itself to improving educational opportunity for children who had been underserved, mistreated, or outright ignored by our public schools. Our amendment will ensure that this bill lives up to ESEA’s promise by ensuring states target resources to the students and schools that need them most.”
"We need to ensure that all of our nation's children get the great education they deserve," Coons said. "For too long, a child's chances in life have been determined by zip code, rather than their willingness to work hard and set their sights high. If we're serious about giving every child the chance to succeed, we need states to hold every school accountable and raise their expectations for every student. The reform bill currently before the Senate lacks strong federal accountability guardrails and would leave too many of our most at-risk children behind. This important amendment would go a long way toward helping our nation ensure that all students have the tools to realize their dreams."
Specifically, the amendment would require state accountability systems to provide additional resources and support to local schools identified as any of the following:
- In the bottom five percent of public schools according to the state accountability system
- A public high school where two-thirds or fewer students are graduating on time
- Any public school where economically disadvantaged, disabled, minority, or English Language Learner students are not meeting state-set goals for achievement
The amendment is a significant departure from No Child Left Behind in that it leaves it to the states and local school districts to decide what interventions will improve outcomes for low-performing schools or groups of students, and includes no federal penalty if schools fail to achieve benchmarks they set. All the amendment requires is that states identify the schools and student populations that need extra help, and come up with improvement plans that make sense for their local community. The oversight and accountability will happen at the local, not federal, level.
The amendment is supported by various civil rights groups and officials, including: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Disability Rights Network, National Urban League, Southern Poverty Law Center, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Third Way, Education Trust, Teach for America, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Democrats for Education Reform, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Center for American Progress, Children's Defense Fund, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, U.S. Department of Education, the White House, Connecticut Association of Schools, Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, Connecticut Business and Industry Association, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, Connecticut School Boards Association, and Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now.