ASCD Responds to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address

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In this evening’s State of the Union address, President Obama laid out a number of proposals touching on our education system.

We agree that high-quality pre-school education has tremendous long-term benefits for students and the country. As ASCD is the association dedicated to supporting the success of each learner, we heartily applaud and eagerly look forward to hearing more details on the President’s call for universal pre-school for all children.

Likewise, ASCD is supportive of efforts to graduate students that are college, career and citizenship ready. The President’s proposal to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy is consistent with our goals.

Finally, the President has asked Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid. This is an intriguing idea that may help increase access to higher education for millions of American students, and we at ASCD look forward to hearing additional information on this plan.

Unfortunately, in this evening’s remarks, the President did not adequately address what we at ASCD see as a primary weakness in current federal K-12 policy, the lack of a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). We at ASCD reiterate that our biggest priority this year is for the reauthorization of ESEA with provisions:

  • Creating meaningful accountability systems;
  • Encouraging comprehensive improvement strategies; and
  • Promoting adequate and effective preparation and ongoing professional development for educators to improve student outcomes.

In reauthorizing ESEA, we call on the President, Congress and other policymakers and stakeholders to adhere to the following guiding principles which we believe will help ensure success for students, educators, and education systems:

  • Ensure a whole child education that prepares youth for college, careers, and citizenship; addresses each student’s social, emotional, physical, and academic needs; and provides engaging learning opportunities in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Use multiple measures beyond state standardized test scores to provide a comprehensive picture of student proficiency, educator effectiveness, and school quality.
  • Provide sufficient time and resources for school improvement strategies that support an enriched curriculum, enhance the school culture, and are commensurate with the school’s need.
  • Ensure educator evaluations use multiple measures and lead to professional development opportunities that build the capacity of districts and schools to improve student outcomes.

Education leaders are continually instituting innovative practices and implementing systemic reforms in their ongoing commitment to support student’s success and school improvement. Unfortunately, federal education policies have not kept pace and are, indeed, hindering innovation and progress. The current version ESEA is badly out of date and more than five years overdue for revision. This delay in reauthorization has prompted a patchwork of temporary solutions that are neither ideal nor lasting.

In addition to calling for the reauthorization of ESEA, ASCD also asks the President and Congress to collaborate and find an alternative to the scheduled March 1 sequestration that protects education funding. As a healthy education system is a critical component to ensuring the future economic health of the country, we at this juncture, cannot afford what will be the largest cut to education spending in history.

ASCD calls on the President and Congress to collaborate to solve these two issues as soon as possible. Doing so would provide the nation’s educators, students, parents and other stakeholders certainty as to both the priorities of our national education policy, and the resources available to implement them.