WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 19, 2010
Today’s hearing addresses an issue critically important to the academic success of our nation’s students. In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires states and each school district to ensure students are proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-2014 school year. For schools that are unable to make what their state has defined as “adequate yearly progress” toward achieving that goal, the law establishes a process to improve these struggling schools and protect the best interests of the students.
Turning around low-performing schools is essential to ensuring low-income students receive a high-quality education, but to do so effectively takes time. That is why parental choice and Supplemental Educational Services, such as free tutoring, were written into the law. These commonsense measures offer students an immediate educational lifeline while their schools improve. I believe we must do everything we can to help ensure students advance academically even when their schools take the tough but necessary steps toward improvement.
Despite the best efforts of Congress and this committee, it’s clear too many states are still struggling to improve the standing of their lowest performing schools. I look forward to discussing in more detail the challenges schools continue to face, including, in some cases, a lack of will on the part of administrators to take the dramatic action that may be necessary to improve their schools. I also want to thank Dr. Thomas Butler, Superintendent of the Ridgway Area School District located in my Congressional District, for being here today to share his expertise on the strategies that rural school districts put in place to turn around their schools.
As policymakers at the federal level, we must remember each school is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The Obama administration has introduced – and even promoted – several changes to the school improvement system that require school districts to implement one of only four school turnaround models.
There are a number of concerns, shared by members in both political parties, with the administration’s approach, which represents a more intrusive federal role in education policy that is better left to parents and state and local leaders. Of equal concern, these changes to the existing School Improvement Grant program have been imposed on state and school leaders outside of the reauthorization process and without proper congressional oversight.
I am also concerned the administration’s blueprint eliminates options for parents of students trapped in chronically underperforming schools. School turnaround is important, but we must ensure parents and students are at the center of federal efforts to reform education.
We will hear from our witnesses today about their own personal experiences trying to ensure students in under-performing schools get the top-notch education they deserve. Their experiences will no doubt inform our work as we look to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.