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ESEA Briefing Book

Political leaders hope to act soon to renew and fix the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, also known as No Child Left Behind). In this important paper, Thomas B. Fordham Institute President Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Executive Vice President Michael J. Petrilli identify 10 big issues that must be resolved in order to get a bill across the finish line, and explore the major options under consideration for each one. Should states be required to adopt academic standards tied to college and career readiness? Should the new law provide greater flexibility to states and districts? These are just a few of the areas discussed. Finn and Petrilli also present their own bold yet “reform realist” solutions for ESEA. Read on to learn more.

The 10 big issues

Issue #1 College and career readiness - Should states be required to adopt academic standards tied to college and career readiness (such as the Common Core)?

Issue #2 Cut scores - What requirements, if any, should be placed upon states with respect to achievement standards (i.e., "cut scores")?

Issue #3 Growth measures - Should states be required to develop assessments that enable measures of individual student growth?

Issue #4 Science and History - Must states develop standards and assessments in additional subjects beyond English/language arts and math?

Issue #5 School ratings - Should Adequate Yearly Progress be maintained, revised, or scrapped?

Issue #6 Interventions - What requirements, if any, should be placed on states in terms of rewarding and sanctioning schools and turning around the lowest performers?

Issue #7 Teacher effectiveness - Should Congress regulate teacher credentials (as with the current "highly qualified teachers" mandate) and/or require the evaluation of teacher effectiveness?

Issue #8 Comparability - Should school districts be required to demonstrate comparability of services between Title I and non-title I schools, and if so, may they point to a uniform salary schedule in order to do so?

Issue #9 Flexibility - Should the new ESEA provide greater flexibility to states and school districts to deviate from the law's requirements?

Issue #10 Competitive grants - Should reform-oriented competitive grant programs, including Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation (I-3), be authorized in the new ESEA?