We need AAA vision for education

The U.S. economy has a flat tire. Our economy is flagging and our infrastructure is crumbling. One way to get the nation back on the road to prosperity is to articulate a new national vision for education and investment in our public schools.
That’s exactly what nations who haven’t lost their AAA credit rating are doing. And it’s also what the United States is not doing. Instead, our elected officials continue to kick the proverbial can down the road while these countries – such as Canada, Finland and Singapore – swiftly pass us by.
Congress has the opportunity help us catch up through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). But instead of tackling the big issues, members of Congress are again looking for tweaks and ways to maintain the status quo.


Leaving some kids behind

Last summer, before my junior year of high school, I had the privilege of working with “Upward Bound,” a program for low-income DC public high school students on track to graduate. The program has dual objectives: in addition to teaching students the skills needed to excel in higher education, it keeps them safe and off the streets.

I was shocked to realize that my kids (those I was assigned to help) must have been given an indifferent pass throughout their secondary education because I had to coach them on aspects of reading, writing and comprehension that should have been mastered well before entering high school. The kids accepted into this program are little different than me in intellect, talent, and drive; however, they are stuck in a system that seems hopelessly inadequate.


Private sector colleges must play a role in America's future

The recent debate and subsequent regulations in Washington singling out private sector colleges and universities have produced an onslaught of media coverage that paints a singular, negative picture of these institutions.

While I agree that there are, in fact, a few schools that have had problems in this sector of higher education - just as public and private not-for-profit schools have had their own issues - the overwhelming majority of private sector schools provide a valid and crucial service to millions of Americans seeking a better education.


Congress should beware 'engagement gap' in reauthorizing ESEA

Applause, please, for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The congressional panel has adopted a resolution supporting inclusion of science education in the educational accountability system as the Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

However, if the committee wants a roaring standing ovation, it should also require critical thinking and creative problem solving skills to be included in the rewrite of the ESEA. Study upon study, expanding research and news media reports continue to point to creativity and problem solving skills as powerful differentiators that will provide our youth with a competitive edge as they emerge from academia into the global marketplace.


While we work for ESEA reauthorization, protect low-income, minority children

Recently, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that the Department of Education would consider waivers if Congress is unable to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Despite the pressing need for reauthorization, such an action not only usurps congressional authority, but may also prove detrimental to countless low-income and minority students. 

Among the provisions that may be waived is the requirement that school districts spend a small portion of the money they receive from the federal government on free tutoring for low-income students stuck in failing schools. Over 650,000 students nationwide take advantage of these Supplementary Education Services (SES), and according to a study released by the Department in March, a large majority of those students are African American or Hispanic.


Gainful employment rule blocks nation's real priorities

Politics aside, lawmakers in Washington should be able to agree that education, job creation, and the economy must be top priorities in the immediate future.

We should support, not inhibit, those who want to go to college; we should train and educate a robust new workforce to compete in the 21st Century global economy; and we should realize the limits of well-intentioned but misguidedregulations that will prevent millions of students from attending the higher education institutions of their choice.


Today we are all children of illegal immigrants

On Independence Day, as we celebrate our freedom, we recall the three rights our Founding Fathers held sacred: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That was their goal for their new nation. Yet in a recent study of hundreds of young children I followed from birth to age three, I found that more than four million children in our country today are not free to access learning opportunities that would allow them to pursue life, liberty and happiness as adults.

Who are these children? They are citizen children of undocumented immigrants, parents without papers. Until now, there has been no clear evidence that having a parent without papers or rights can hurt your ability to learn and develop the skills to pursue the American Dream as described in the Declaration of Independence, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Now we know it can. And that all too often, it does.


Time to hold schools accountable

Chief state school officers around the nation are calling on Congress to act now to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which has been due for revision since 2007. In the absence of reauthorization, state leaders are boldly committing to advancing education reforms that result in positive educational outcomes for all students. With or without Congressional action on ESEA, achieving this goal is a moral, economic, and national security imperative.

More than at any other time in our nation’s history, state leaders are overcoming the longstanding political barriers to education reform. The results of this effort have been dramatic, transforming the very structures upon which statewide school systems operate. At the heart of these state-level reforms is a shared belief that our public education systems must prepare all students to graduate from high school ready to succeed.

With efforts to establish college- and career-ready standards and assessments well under way, states are now moving to design and implement next-generation accountability systems to ensure these reforms lead to results for our nation’s children. State leaders agree that accountability systems must be richer, more ambitious, and more useful to the educators working to dramatically improve student achievement.


Outdated mandates fail our students

Since the beginning of this Congress, the House Education and the Workforce Committee has held several hearings and roundtables to examine the state of education in America. We’ve talked with superintendents, teachers, school officials and parents to get their perspectives on the challenges facing students and communities.

Through all this, we came back to one sad fact: Children in America are being shortchanged. Teachers and administrators are bogged down with burdensome, outdated mandates. Budgetary shortfalls and strict regulations have made it difficult for schools to prioritize funding streams for the most effective initiatives. Parents are rightly frustrated with the state of their children’s underperforming public schools.

There is a better way. The committee has begun advancing a series of reforms to fix the nation’s education system.


When hedge funds drive educational policy, who profits?

With more than two trillion dollars of debt put on the backs of American taxpayers over the last two years, it is not surprising that Washington's spending spree also produced a bumper crop of waste, fraud and abuse.

With the publication of the “Gainful Employment” rule this past Thursday, we bear witness to one of the most egregious (albeit inventive) examples of the unseemly intersection of special interests and big government. Fraud and corruption take on a new face in the intersection of Wall Street, the not-for profit world, and the U.S. Department of Education (DoED).