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Obama Administration Proposes ESEA Blueprint

The Obama Administration proposes to place its emphasis on school success rather than failure and sets a goal of ensuring that all students leave high school prepared for college or career, according to its blueprint for revising the No Child Left Behind Act. Passed in 2002, NCLB was the most recent rewriting of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.

The Administration's blueprint asks the states to adopt the academic standards proposed by the nation's governors and state education leaders, and to create accountability systems that recognize student growth and school progress and to ensure that students are prepared for college or to enter the workplace. "We will work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize the ESEA this year," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said about the blueprint. "A rigorous and fair accountability system measures student growth, rewards schools that accelerate student achievement, and identifies and rewards outstanding teachers and leaders."

The blueprint also says the accountability system will require states and districts to identify and take rigorous actions in the lowest-performing schools. The administration has proposed a significant investment to help states and districts recognize and reward high-poverty schools and districts that are showing improvement getting their students on this path, using measures of progress and growth.

Under the ESEA blueprint, states and districts will continue to focus on the achievement gap by identifying and intervening in schools that are persistently failing to close those gaps. For other schools, states and districts would have flexibility to determine appropriate improvement and support options.

Commenting earlier on the proposals, Secretary Duncan said, "I am optimistic that the three principles I have outlined for ESEA reauthorization--higher standards, rewarding excellence, and a smarter, less prescriptive federal role--have widespread support among both Democrats and Republicans. We very much look forward to working on ESEA reauthorization in a bipartisan manner. Education must be an issue when we put politics and ideology to the side and simply do what is best for children."

"Now, most federal money will stay in formula programs under the budget. Title I and IDEA are untouched…. But it is also true we are shifting toward more competitive grants in some areas. However, we are going to administer competitions in ways that ensure a level playing field for rural districts…. In some programs, we will be looking at set-asides for rural areas and providing technical assistance to ensure small districts can successfully compete. Geographic location should not dictate results."

The President's proposed budget increases post-secondary student aid by $156 billion, up from $98 billion in 2008, enough to provide federal assistances to nearly 15 million students, and make it easier for borrowers to repay their loans, lowering income-based repayments and cutting the length of their repayments.