Last week the Ounce of Prevention Fund sent an important letter to Education Secretary John King underscoring the huge importance of giving all children a strong education start from the first years of their lives. The letter was co-signed by over 20 organizations including Stand for Children Illinois.
This is an important issue for me as a parent and someone who works everyday with other parents. When I traveled to Washington, DC early last year, I joined other Illinois education advocates to push for improvements to the No Child Left Behind Act. The bill was eventually passed and signed into law by President Obama late last year, this time called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The bill replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. ESSA helps ensure that every child, regardless of race, gender, or zip code, receives the education they deserve – something we pushed for strongly when we were in DC. This is about civil rights for our students, ensuring that schools are held accountable for results and to ensure quality educational opportunities for ALL students.
Since ESSA became law, different regulations have been proposed by the government to implement it, including regulations the Ounce of Prevention Fund responded to in the letter. And because I was advocating in DC with Stand parents, I want to see this through – ensuring this important law works best for our students.
Included in the letter is this: “When assessment results in third grade and up are the only metric on which a school is judged, it creates a strong incentive for district and school leaders to focus on the ‘tested years.’”
Given that there are more than four years between when a child enters a 4-year-old preschool program and when that child takes his or her first accountability assessment (to say nothing of the fact that many low-performing schools have high student mobility) many local officials tend to focus on the “tested years” rather than shifting the balance to use additional indicators that place emphasis on the early learning years.
I’m proud that Stand joined the letter with Ounce of Prevention Fund and the other organizations. We remain committed to fighting for improved education opportunities for ALL students – including our youngest ones. Stay tuned to our blog as ESSA regulations become final.