skip to main navigation skip to demographic navigationskip to welcome messageskip to quicklinksskip to features
  • Continue Your Membership
  • WEAC Member Benefits

The ESEA: Are You Ready?

WEAC and NEA members must play a pivotal role in shaping how the new federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act is interpreted, amended and applied to schools, NEA’s ESEA expert said Monday (August 5, 2002) at the 2002 WEAC Summer Academy.

“We must take the lead,” said Dorothy Harrell. “This is not a time for us to sit back and say this is not going to work. We need to say, as professionals, this is the way it should be done.”

Participants in the Emerging Leaders session at Summer Academy employed a variety of innovative approaches for organizing members to attend the ESEA update. Above, Melinda Gladney, of Milwaukee, wears a sandwich board to promote the session, as Peter Bugni, of Northland Pines, checks it out.

The new ESEA, which was signed into law last January, will have a sweeping impact on schools, especially in the areas of student testing and accountability. But each state is working on detailed plans for implementing the law, and those details are critical, Harrell said.

It is therefore important that WEAC members be involved every step of the way and actively work to elect pro-education candidates in this fall’s elections because those future public officials will be making major decisions for years to come on how this law is implemented.

“We have to get involved,” Harrell said. “Congress says you need to be accountable. Now your message to them is they need to be accountable. ... Accountability is a two-way street.”

Despite the fact that the law is often referred to as the No Child Left Behind Law, “there will be children left behind,” Harrell said.

The law, which targets high-poverty schools, requires that all students be proficient in reading and math by 2014. It focuses on required annual reading and math testing in grades 3-8 (beginning in 2005-06) and assurances that all teachers are “highly qualified” to teach in their field. The law provided additional funding to achieve these goals, although many question whether the additional funding is adequate.

Each state must set achievement standards for all students in reading and math, and develop a system of rewards and sanctions for improving student achievement. Targeted schools will be required to demonstrate an increase in student performance (referred to in the law as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP) after two years and then every three years after that, moving toward 100% proficiency in math and reading within 12 years.

There are problems and inconsistencies in the law, Harrell said, and critical implementation decisions are yet to be made at both the federal and state level.

“In the end,” she said, “ESEA means NEA needs member involvement in Campaign 2002 to get the reform right!”

For more articles from the Summer Academy, go to the Members Only site

Posted August 8, 2002

Education News