Janet Murguía Testimony at ESSA Hearing: Full Remarks

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Today our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, testified before the before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions’ hearing, “ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders” to provide the civil rights perspective. Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery:

“NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, an American institution recognized in the book Forces for Good as one of the leading nonprofits in the nation. We represent over 250 Affiliates—local, community-based organizations in 41 states and the District of Columbia—that provide education, health, housing, workforce development, and other services to millions of Americans and immigrants annually. Many of these Affiliates operate as charter schools, provide early education, or offer after-school programming or family literacy services. Their experiences inform NCLR’s federal agenda.

“NCLR was proud to support the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act as a much needed update to our federal education law. Notably, for the first time, English language proficiency will be included in states’ accountability systems. However, passage was just the first step. It is critical that ESSA be implemented in a manner consistent with the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure its promise for all students.

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ESSA Implications for Latinos and English Learners

By Dr. Christopher R. McBride, Mariposa Academy of Language and Learning
(This is cross-posted from the National Institute for Latino School Leaders Blog.)

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Latino students represent one of four students in classrooms across the United States and are projected to represent about one in three students by 2030. There are nearly five million English learner (EL) students and 80 percent of them are Spanish speakers. Furthermore, in 2013 only about 61 percent of EL students graduated high school compared to an average of about 75 percent of Hispanic students and over 86 percent of White students. Clearly our Latino and EL populations are growing and we, as a nation, are not meeting their educational needs. If we do not do a better job educating these students to prepare them to succeed in college and life afterward, we will all suffer.

Aware of the facts around Latino and EL students, the question weighing on the minds of many educational leaders is, “How will the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) impact our ability to close the achievement gap for Latinos and English learners?” The answer to this question is that it depends on the specific implementation in your state. ESSA has provided for increased funding for ELs by increasing Title III authorization levels. ESSA also leaves greater discretion to states to develop suitable accountability systems for when they are failing groups of students and has moved accountability for ELs from Title III to Title I. Therefore, it is critical to the success of Latinos and ELs students that states adopt provisions to better track and improve the educational performance of ELs.

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What Other States Can Learn from Tennessee’s Approach to Tackling Educational Equity

By Brenda Calderon, Policy Analyst, Education Policy Project

Bright and early on the first of March, advocates from across the state of Tennessee came out in droves to discuss one topic—how the state would tackle the newly signed Every Student Succeeds Act with a focus on the most vulnerable children. Representatives from NCLR, the National Urban League, the NAACP, and others gathered to talk about meeting the needs of the growing population of Latino and English learners in the state.

With welcome remarks by Renato Soto, NCLR Board Chair and Executive Director of NCLR Affiliate Conexión Américas, and Gini Pupo-Walker, Senior Director of Education Policy and Strategic Growth at Conexión Américas, the context was set—a new coalition would form to focus on educational equity for low-income students and students of color in the state. The partnerships to advance equity were further encouraged by Tennessee State Education Commissioner Dr. Candice McQueen. She provided an overview of the ambitious goals Tennessee would tackle to get every student ready for college and a career. The coalition, made up of school leaders, teachers, and advocates, developed priorities to address some of the most pressing issues in the state: excellent teachers for every child, strong accountability systems, and appropriate and equitable resources and supports for children.

Soon, all states across the country will have to redesign their accountability plans to meet the new expectations set forth in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, recently renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act. Advocates have an important role to play as the new law requires stakeholder engagement in designing accountability plans in a state, meaning stakeholders have a say in determining what goals need to be set, the indicators of school quality, and what happens when schools continue to fail groups of students. The Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition is a great example of how stakeholders and representatives from school districts, civil rights groups, state education agencies, and the business community can come together to build a unified agenda to meet the educational needs of students in the state.