Teacher Carina Chavez, left, watches a science experiment with sound waves done by 4th grader Daniel Garcia, left, and 6th grader Jade Soriano, middle, on Dec. 7, 2015 at Advanced Learning Academy in Santa Ana.

A coalition 37 of education advocacy and civil rights groups from across the country want more input into how states and the federal government implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act to ensure it better serves high-needs students, such as low-income children and English learners.

The coalition, which includes the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Children’s Defense Fund, issued a joint letter Friday to the U.S. Department of Education.

In the letter, the coalition asked for states and the federal government to increase parental outreach, provide more relevant standardized tests for English learners and students with disabilities, ensure a stronger focus on intervention for schools with the lowest test scores, and create a system to disseminate student data that is easy for parents and the community to understand.

“Without a robust and thoughtful implementation of (the federal law) over the next decade, we will have missed a crucial opportunity and the students we represent will continue to be denied the full protections they need and are entitled to under federal law,” according to the four-page letter.

President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law in December after it passed through Congress with strong bipartisan support.

The law symbolized the largest turn toward local control in three decades, allowing states to regain the authority to set their own educational goals, measurements of school performance and methods for school improvement.

From a California perspective, lawmakers and education leaders have said the new law would be largely compatible with the direction of education reforms in the state. These reforms are giving greater powers to local school districts, reducing the emphasis on standardized test scores in holding schools and students accountable, and moving away from top-down reforms coming from Washington.

Civil rights groups have previously said they worried that some states, left more on their own, will retreat from a commitment to closing the achievement gap, or the academic disparity between some minority groups, including Latinos and black students, and their higher-achieving white and Asian peers.

Here are some reforms proposed by the 37-member coalition in its letter to the U.S. Department of Education:

  • Parent and Community Engagement: States must ensure that low-income communities, communities of color, the disability community, immigrant communities, and tribes are included in decision-making when implementing the law.
  • State Accountability Systems: The states should ensure that support and intervention systems are developed with stakeholders and are implemented to raise achievement for consistently low-performing groups of students.
  • Assessments: The law should ensure a participation rate of at least 95 percent. For English learners and students with disabilities, the assessments should not be an excuse to provide vulnerable students with lower quality assessments or obscure disparities in student outcomes.
  • Data Reporting: All publicly reported data should be available and understandable to students, parents and communities to help inform their participation in decision-making.

The U.S. Department of Education did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the coalition’s letter.

The coalition, through the letter, said, “We appreciate this chance to comment and look forward to many more opportunities to inform the implementation of this law at the federal, state and local level. The civil rights community is deeply invested in ensuring that this law is implemented in an inclusive way and that it drives towards equity.”


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