"We can't narrow the focus of our schools into just math and reading and still expect to graduate students who are ready for college, a career and citizenship," writes ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter in his special commentary for CNN's Schools of Thought blog. "A comprehensive education provides students the opportunity to discover what they excel at and inspires a boost in overall student performance and confidence across all subjects."
ASCD and more than 25 other major education organizations (including several whole child partners), representing a wide array of subject areas, are promoting consensus recommendations for how federal education policy can better support subject disciplines beyond reading, math, and science. The recommendations are a response to proposals that could threaten schools' and districts' ability to provide students with a comprehensive education that prepares them to graduate from high school ready for success in college, careers, and citizenship, and that narrows the definition of such readiness to only the Common Core State Standards.
Each year, ASCD educators from across the country create a legislative agenda to outline ASCD's policy priorities and guide our advocacy efforts. But the true power of the agenda lies in its use by you—educators, parents and family members, business leaders, and community members who have firsthand knowledge of what needs to be done to address the rapidly changing education needs of our country and its students.
The 2011 agenda calls on Congress to revamp the accountability system to a model that is student-focused, is rewards-based, and encompasses all core academic subjects. The agenda also recommends a new federal goal to close the international achievement gap between the United States and other countries and to provide comprehensive support for educators so that students benefit from a highly effective teacher in every classroom.
The agenda emphasizes the need for
A complete rewrite of the federal education law. ESEA must not be just tinkered with, but completely overhauled to support our efforts to provide a world-class education to every student.
College- and career-readiness. Congress must embrace college- and career-readiness standards that include proficiency in reading, math, science, social science, the arts, civics, foreign language, health education and physical education, technology, and all other core academic subjects.
Equity and access. All children must have an equitable share of resources commensurate with their learning needs, as well as access to personalized learning; a well-rounded education; a highly effective teacher in every subject; and support from qualified, caring adults.
Capacity-building assistance and information dissemination. Federal support and coordination can help states and districts build meaningful capacity to improve student achievement and school quality through robust investments in education research, the enhancement of a world-renowned education clearinghouse of innovation, and the dissemination of best practices to sustain highly effective educators.
Federal accountability requirements. The current adequate yearly progress system is irretrievably broken. The education accountability mandate needs to be transformed from one that is punitive, federally prescriptive, and overly bureaucratic to a model that rewards achievement, is state-driven and peer reviewed, and promotes supportive learning communities and a culture of continuous improvement.
Please use this agenda and the Making the Case for Educating the Whole Child tool to guide discussions and decision making in your own states and communities. Together, we need to educate our lawmakers on the urgency of rewriting ESEA so that we can stop operating under the constraints of an outdated and flawed law and start meeting our students' varied needs so they're ready for success in our challenging global economy.