Melissa Mellor

ASCD Unveils 2010 Legislative Priorities, Responds to White House ESEA Blueprint

The Obama administration's blueprint for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was released a little over a week ago to mixed reactions. Many education groups expressed support for the measures outlined in the blueprint, but others, including the big teacher unions, took issue with the plan's approach to ensuring educator effectiveness.

ASCD stands in support of the key components of the blueprint, which align with the association's 2010 Legislative Agenda and our whole child approach to education:

Healthy and Safe. The blueprint proposes providing support to states, school districts, and their partners to implement strategies that improve school safety and promote students' physical and mental health, which is consistent with ASCD's legislative agenda. ASCD's agenda also calls for a comprehensive set of indicators that more fully capture information about a student's overall health and well-being in school. Under the administration's proposal, grantees would be required to track and report such data.

Engaged. ASCD believes students must be exposed to wide-ranging and relevant learning experiences. Similarly, the Obama administration proposes providing resources to strengthen the teaching and learning of arts, foreign languages, history and civics, financial literacy, and other subjects. The blueprint also outlines support for the creation of innovative models, such as full-service community schools, redesigned school days or years, and opportunities for experiential learning.

Supported. Students need teachers and administrators who take a personal interest in their success and who are equipped to address their diverse and evolving needs. The administration recognizes this and wants to require (1) statewide definitions of effective teachers and principals that take into account student growth and other measures and (2) district evaluation systems that provide meaningful feedback to teachers and principals and inform professional development. The administration also shares ASCD's recognition of the need for improved teacher and principal preparation, high-quality professional development, and career ladders that increase retention.

Challenged. ASCD's legislative agenda makes clear that we need an accountability framework that evaluates students and schools using multiple indicators of performance, including student academic growth. The ESEA blueprint proposes a system that tracks individual student growth and school progress over time. Both ASCD's agenda and the ESEA blueprint also call for resources that increase student access to accelerated learning opportunities including advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, dual enrollment, and gifted and talented programs, especially for students in high-need schools.

In this month's Is It Good for the Kids? column, ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter writes, "The education leaders from across the country who developed ASCD's 2010 Legislative Agenda believe that it's time for federal education policy to support a whole child approach, helping to ensure that all children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged."

ASCD educators believe the blueprint represents a good first step from the federal government in supporting this type of whole child approach. Adds Carter, "We are especially encouraged by the administration's emphasis on effective teachers and leaders for every classroom and school; a complete education that prepares students for postsecondary success; and services and supports that lead to successful, safe, and healthy students."

What do you think about ASCD's legislative agenda? Do you agree that the White House's blueprint signals support of a whole child approach to learning and teaching?

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