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New Opportunities for Urban Education

The Gateway Cities Journal

031416_lizwarren_131Last Monday, Gateway City leaders assembled at Clark University for an address by Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Every Child Succeeds Act. At the same institution where they met in 2013 to draft a shared vision for community-wide learning, Gateway City leaders joined a dialogue about opportunities in the new federal law to advance their shared agenda.

The new federal education law requires states to expand the set of factors in school accountability systems beyond just test scores; provides funding for states and districts to audit testing regimes; and allows states to limit the amount of time devoted to testing. The law also includes funding to encourage states to experiment with new approaches to using tests to facilitate student-centered instruction.

Senator Warren—and the four education experts that led a panel conversation responding to her remarks—focused on the accountability provisions in the new legislation. All agreed that the new law is an improvement on the No Child Left Behind Act. But they also emphasized concern that the flexibility provided by the new act could translate into less rigor in schools serving disadvantaged students, leading to wider achievement gaps. The panelist were particularly pointed in noting that our systems currently lack the capacity to develop and implement the innovative approaches to assessment that many educators see as the most promising features of the new law.

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For Gateway City leaders, this is an opening to join forces to exchange ideas and marshal resources. Whether it’s bringing communities together to foster social-emotional well-being or organizing across institutions to place all students on a pathway to college and career success, the law is a real opportunity to align accountability with the outcomes Gateway City leaders want for their youth.

The first step in implementing the new law is the development of regulations and clarifying guidelines. The US Department of Education will produce these over the next year. States will then have until the beginning of the 2017– 2018 school year to put in place new accountability systems that conform to the law and US DOE regulations.

The clock is ticking. Gateway City leaders must continue the dialogue they began last week in Worcester and coalesce around a shared set of principles for what next generation accountability looks like in Massachusetts. As Senator Warren stated in her address – “We want not just some of our children, but all of our children to have a fighting chance to build a future and that starts with public education.”

– Ben Forman


 Watch Highlights from Senator Warren’s Keynote Address

Watch Highlights from the Panel Discussion


 

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