Washington—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released the following statement on today's U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing, "No Child Left Behind: Early Lessons from State Flexibility Waivers," and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
"Full reauthorization of ESEA is long overdue, and we thank Sen. Tom Harkin for holding today's hearing on how the state flexibility waivers for NCLB are working. Given the pressing challenges our schools face, I understand the administration's desire to offer waivers and the desire of many states to apply for them. Unfortunately, eligibility for waivers continues NCLB's flawed overemphasis on test scores and sanctions, and falls short on promoting and providing the tools needed to actually help students and educators. Sadly, the waiver requirements talk the talk of accountability, but when it comes to assessing whether the tools to support teachers and help schools are provided, their lack of accountability is shocking.
"ESEA reauthorization presents a needed opportunity for a midcourse correction that addresses the issues in the original No Child Left Behind Act, in the waivers, as well as in Race to the Top. Congress should apply the lessons learned from these programs and consider the real issues with them that persist.
"The waivers do precious little to build capacity or instill systemic reform. For example, school systems need assistance in rolling out their Common Core standards, including bringing educators, parents and the public up to speed on the transition; in providing the curricular supports and professional development for teachers to make the necessary instructional shifts; and in allotting time to teach to the new standards before testing on them.
"The reauthorization of ESEA must ensure that resources are provided to all students, rather than allocated through a competitive process that produces winners and losers among our nation's schoolchildren. These resources should be used on research-based interventions, such as smaller class sizes in the lower grades, as well as on educator-developed teacher support and improvement programs.
"We must adopt an 'all-in' strategy in a reauthorized ESEA. This means those whose responsibility it is to provide tools that enable and support teaching and learning are held accountable, not just those in the trenches.
"I encourage Congress to avoid further delay and find the common ground necessary to achieve the common goal of improving education for every child."