Ready the set – and DOE!

As part of my Teaching & Learning Conference experience, I attended a pre-conference workshop at the U.S. Department of Education.

Um, aaawwwesome.

Fade in on a girl (Smash reference – yes!): I emerge from the L’Enfant metro plaza in a new black dress and heels with the wind whipping my hair back (re: making it a frizzy mess) and “Uptown Funk” playing a continuous loop in my head. In hand is my House of Representatives padfolio (because true democracy geeks buy office supplies emblazoned with government seals), as I make a successful attempt to look like I know where I’m going. (Who needs to stop and ask the police officer directions? We’re old buddies! See you tomorrow, Officer Friendly!)

I arrive at the building with time to spare, breeze through security, find the conference room, and grab a seat next to a friend from Twitter who also won tickets to the conference.

Zoom out and pan left: Teacher-fellow James Liou takes the stage and welcomes us all then invites us to take pictures at the podium. I realize just in time that he doesn’t mean in that particular moment. Liou introduces Joy Silverman, the Dept. Chief of Staff for Policy & Programs, who provides the 80 or so attendees with the latest information on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):

  • ESEA was first introduced 50 years ago as a civil rights law. It was meant to provide extra opportunities and support for kids who need it most.
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) required more accountability for resources
  • Title I was supposed to be extra money (on top of regular budget spending), but current law includes a loophole called the comparability loophole, which (to my understanding) means high-poverty schools aren’t getting extra anything from the government other than stress.
  • As of nearly two weeks ago, there was one bill in the house and a draft bill in the Senate.
  • The DOE (and many others) believes ESEA is outdated. The department says we need money for pre-K/early childhood in the bill and a concrete way to reduce overtesting. The DOE also wants to see the new bill include more resources for teachers and principals and should have ways to support innovation.
  • “Policy works best when made with people on the ground,” says Ms. Silverman at the close of her presentation.

Cue applause. There’s more to come in this suspense-filled government-educator thriller, but I’ll have to write more tomorrow. (Grape juice needs are taken very seriously around here. And I only wish I were talking about the adult version.) By means of apology, allow me to leave you with a link to more recent news on the ESEA reauthorization. Enjoy!

- Council of Chief School State Officers press release

- The National Law Review article

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