A Brief history of U.S. Education Reform

By Sophie Strang

The ESEA is an acronym for The Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was passed in 1965 during Lyndon Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty,’ in order to help fund and rebuild the structure of k-12 classrooms from the bottom, up. [State of Union War on Poverty]

The ESEA was designed to/for:

*support additional tutoring services

*Add more instructional materials used in the classroom

*Migrant education

*Juvenile delinquent education

*Exaggerate parental participation through newly created parent-student programs

* Support english as a second language learning

*Better education for homeless students

*Better advanced placement program

*Math and science partnership grants

*Better private school programs

*Small rural achievement programs

*State funding support

*Improve teaching quality

*Offer drug-free, safety zones for schools

(If you would like to look in depth at these programs that are set up by the ESEA, click HERE.)

The ESEA has been renewed every five years since it was passed in the sixties and was reauthorized as the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ in 2001 (known formally as Public Law 107-87)  and signed by George W. Bush in January of 2002.

The NCLB promised to:

*increase academic expectation in core classes

*offer information on schools and teachers to help citizens make wise decisions on where their children are going to attend

*increase flexibility on how schools use their funding

*ensure that student reading ability is accomplished at a young age

*improve teacher quality

*improve english as a second language instruction

*supporting drug and violence free schooling and providing transfer opportunities for students who attend schools in dangerous environments.

*increasing the funding for school libraries

*focusing on aiding schools whose students come from low income households.

(Details about each of these programs can be found here.)

The schools that were intended in receiving this funding were primarily private, charter, religious and schools located in low-income neighborhoods.

On ESEA flexibility: The U.S department of education allows SEA’s (School Education Agency) flexibility in where their funding is used in order to expand the options of enhancing academic improvement regarding learning and teaching quality. Under some requirements set by the NCLB 2001, state and local leaders will receive help through plans created by the state in order to close achievement gaps and better the students and teaching services.

In recent times (October 2011), the Obama Administration released a waiver proposal to heighten academic standards and reform the schools with the lowest recorded performance. A few weeks following the waiver, Senator of Iowa Tom Harkin (head of the Senate Education Committee) created and exposed a bill that, like the Obama waiver, returns some of the overseeing power to the states and more specifically local districts. This bill was co-sponsored by Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming.

” ‘We are moving into a partnership mode with states, rather than telling states you’ve got to do this and this and this,’ Senator Harkin said in a call with reporters.Mr. Harkin’s bill would keep the law’s requirements that states test students in reading and math every year in grades [3-8], and once in high school, and make the scores public.But for about 9 of every 10 American schools, it would scrap the law’s federal system of accountability, under which schools must raise the proportion of students showing proficiency on the tests each year. That system has driven classroom teaching across the nation for a decade.States would still face federal oversight for the worst-performing 5 percent of schools, as well as for the 5 percent of schools in each state with the widest achievement gap between minority and white students. Districts in charge of those schools could lose federal financing under the Harkin plan if they failed to raise their student achievement.“Harkin’s bill would return control to the state departments of education and the local school districts, and they’re the ones that got us into the mess that No Child was designed to fix,” said Grover J. Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who headed the Department of Education’s research wing under President Bush. “Districts and states have not been effective in delivering quality education to children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, so why should we think they’ll be effective this time around?”

Several advocacy groups for minority students and the disabled also criticized Mr. Harkin’s bill, and on similar grounds. By eliminating the law’s central accountability provisions, the bill would represent “a significant step backward,” returning the nation to the years before No Child’s passage, when many states did a slipshod job of promoting student achievement, they said.

Under the Harkin bill, “states would not have to set measurable achievement and progress targets or even graduation rate goals,” six groups including the Education Trust, theChildren’s Defense Fund and the National Council of La Raza, said in a letter to Mr. Harkin on Tuesday. “Congress, parents and taxpayers would have no meaningful mechanism by which to hold schools, districts, or states accountable for improving student outcomes.”

Asked about that criticism, Mr. Harkin said that to round up backing for his bill from Republicans in his committee, he had been forced to make compromises.

“I’d like to have federal targets, but that’s one of the compromises,” he said. “I refuse to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

The chances of Mr. Harkin’s bill becoming law are murky, even if it were to gain Senate passage and evolve considerably as a result of Republican amendments. He said that he intends to open the bill up for amendments in his committee next week, and to get it to the Senate floor for consideration before Thanksgiving.” – NY Times (2)


1.”http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2295/No-Child-Left-Behind-Act-2001.html”>No Child Left Behind Act of (2001) – The Original ESEA, The New Act

2.Dillon, Sam. Bill Would Overhaul No Child Left Behind. The New York Times, 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/education/12educ.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1322530483-lF/Dobs+6J2KXx22NQ0FGQ >.

3.”Mike Enzi.” Mike Enzi: Senator of Wyoming. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2011. <http://enzi.senate.gov/public/&gt;.

4.Whilden, Blake. “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act: A Primer on Reauthorization in 2010.” Federal Relations and Policy Analysis, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://www.congressweb.com/aascu/docfiles/ESEA%20PRIMER%20FINAL.pdf&gt;.

5.”Modern History Sourcebook: President Lyndon B. Johnson: The War on Poverty, March 1964.” Proposal for A Nationwide War On The Sources of Poverty’. Internet Modern History Sourcebook, n.d. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1964johnson-warpoverty.html&gt;.

6.Siegel, Robert. “Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty Weeks into Office, LBJ Turned Nation’s Focus to the Poor.” National Public Radio. N.p., 8 Jan. 2004. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyID=1589660>.

7.Rector, Robert, Kiki Bradley, and Rachel Sheffield. “Since the War on Poverty began in 1964, welfare spending has skyrocketed.” Family Facts. N.p., 16 Sept. 2009. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. <http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/310/since-the–war-on-poverty–began-in-1964-welfare-spending-has-skyrocketed&gt;.

8.”LBJ State of the Union War on Poverty .” Youtube. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfT03Ihtlds&gt;.


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