***For Immediate Release***
July 17, 2013
Dora Taylor, (Seattle) President, PAA -206-841-9613
Pamela Grundy (Charlotte) -704-806-0410
Julie Woestehoff (Chicago) – 773-715-3989
It’s time for lawmakers to listen to parents!
National parent group reaches out to Congress on ESEA,
demanding less testing and privatization and more proven, effective reforms
As the U.S. House of Representatives moves to considers H. R. 5, the Student Success Act, this week, representatives of Parents Across America (PAA), a national network of public school parents, are on Capitol Hill today calling on members of Congress to share our concerns about the direction of federal education policy, and offer our recommendations.
Here is a handy chart comparing H.R. 5 with PAA’s positions, which include less emphasis on failed strategies like excessive testing and expanding charter schools, and more successful reforms such as lower class size and authentic, democratic parent empowerment.
“It’s time to stop doing things that don’t work, like expanding charter schools and testing, and to start doing more of those things that improve education and student outcomes, like lowering class size and including parents in decision making,” said PAA President Dora Taylor, who lives in Seattle, WA.
PAA is holding its first formal annual meeting since incorporating as a non-profit organization in Illinois in July 2012. Representatives of PAA will meet from July 17-19 to share information, set priorities and discuss strategies for the coming year. Meetings with Congressmen and Senators on Capitol Hill are also on the agenda for the group, which formed in 2010 and has grown to include 50 chapters in 24 states.
While PAA members are pleased with some aspects of H.R. 5, they are concerned that most of its revisions to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, aka No Child Left Behind), are going in the wrong direction, and eroding children’s opportunity to realize their potential.
“The explosion of new testing resulting from the Common Core standards and assessments is a huge unfunded mandate that will drain billions of dollars from cash-strapped states and districts, and further harm children. We must reverse course before it’s too late, said Charlotte, North Carolina parent Pamela Grundy, co-chair of the grass-roots MecklenburgACTS.org.
Specifically, PAA supports HR 5’s provisions to
- end the Adequate Yearly Progress accountability system, while maintaining disaggregated subgroup reporting,
- do away with the restricted choice of school interventions, and
- prohibit the Department of Education from requiring states to implement certain programs in order to gain funds.
However, we oppose the bill’s provisions that
- continue to require annual testing in grades 3 – 8,
- require the use of student test scores as significant parts of teacher evaluation,
- focus parent involvement on “choice,” particularly including charter schools,
- remove the requirement that teachers be highly qualified,
- reduce the amount of money available for class size reduction,
- require that a portion of “flexible” grant funds be used for privatization, and
- provide less funding overall.
The Senate Democratic proposal to reauthorize ESEA is not much better, according to PAA. That proposal also continues to overuse and misuse standardized tests, marginalize parents, and promote privatization. Unlike the House proposal, it continues to recommend ineffective, top-down interventions in struggling schools. Despite two decades of effort, none of these strategies has produced significant improvements in public schools.
PAA believes a new ESEA must include:
- a focus on providing sufficient and equitable resources in all public schools, so that every child can receive a high-quality education,
- improving schools rather than closing them, using evidence-based solutions backed by parents and other stakeholders,
- less standardized testing and more reliable accountability and assessment practices,
- programs that encourage the retention of professional, experienced teachers,
- a full range of parent involvement opportunities, including a stronger, democratically-elected parent voice in decision making at the school, district, state, and national levels, and
- the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.
PAA co-founder Julie Woestehoff concluded, “It’s time for a more responsible federal education law that will strengthen our nation’s public schools and provide a high-quality education for all our children.”
Parents Across America (PAA) is a grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together on improving our nation’s public schools. We advocate for proven, progressive measures such as reducing class size and increasing parent involvement, and oppose high-stakes testing and corporate-style efforts to privatize our schools. PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school parents – and common sense – to local, state, and national education debates. Visit our web site, www.parentsacrossamerica.org for more.