The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee opposes the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We understand that this legislation has been pushed forward after compromises made between the House and Senate during the conference report on the Every Child Achieves Act s. 1177 and the Student Success Act HR 5. While some will deem this legislation is a good step forward, ADC as a civil rights organization cannot compromise on fundamental principles that will ensure the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) continues to be a civil rights law.
We refuse to be satisfied with water downed provisions that may bring attention to issues our children face, particularly English Language Learners (ELL) but do not substantively address and/or restricts ability to actually address. The Senate bill only allowed for ELL to be exempt from the English language or reading assessment system for 1 year. Under the Senate bill ELL were not exempt from math assessment and in comparison to the House bill, the Senate bill made sure ELL were counted and their performance was included in the state accountability system. The House bill allowed ELL students to be exempt from English language assessment for 2 years in math and 3 years in reading.
However, the ESSA produced after conference is worst then the Senate and House bill offered in conference. Now, schools have the option to 1) exempt ELL from the reading assessment once and ELL performance from the state accountability system for both math and English in first year; or 2) assess and report the performance of ELL in reading and math in 1st year but not include in the state accountability system, use a measure of student growth in 2nd year, include ELL performance on assessments beginning 3rd year.
We understand and support the position that ELL should be tested in English by the time they are expected to be proficient in English. However, assessment of English and reporting on performance in both English and math are separate issues. States should include performance of ELL in all years in the state accountability system so that they can better be able to assess where to know and direct resources where needed. Without accountability throughout the system, achieving resource equity is limited. When ESEA was enacted in 1965, resource equity was a core variable that made ESEA an civil rights law, because resource equity addresses disparities in performance, growth and learning in communities of color and economically disadvantaged populations. ELL deserve the same protections, and majority come from communities of color and economically disadvantaged populations. The Every Student Succeeds Act fails in ELL because there should be no option for states to be accountable or not for their ELL populations.
We refuse to support legislation that fails to include, identify and define translators and interpreters under qualified paraprofessionals for Title III funding. Translators and interpreters are vital to ELL growth and assessment of math and reading among other core subjects. Naturally, tied to this is the failure of ESSA to require the use of updated, and culturally appropriate ELL materials. There is serious concern that the need for translators and interpreters in states and/school districts for non-spanish speaking ELL will continue to be overlooked.
We refuse to support legislation that effectively allows school and local educational agency (LEA) to wait up to 4 years to act and intervene where subgroups are underperforming, high schools with graduation rates less than 67 percent, and in the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools. LEAS’s are required to develop and implement support and improvement plans. However, states can determine when this initial intervention must be satisfied and allows up to 4 years. Even if initial intervention not satisfied in 4 years, schools merely decide on another state determined action. Schools are also required to develop targeted support and improvement plans where subgroup consistently underperforming. However, additional action is only required where unsuccessful implementation of the plan after a set number of years by the LEA.
We refuse to support legislation that ignores and dismisses the need for accountability through the cross tabulation and further data disaggregation of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) children. It is insufficient to merely provide technical assistance to states upon request for this data. Parents have a right to know and schools should want go know if srubgroups of AAPI children are underperforming. AAPI, similar to Arab Americans, represent a vast and diverse community from many different countries. We are not oblivious to the fact that students from our community depending upon their country of national origin have access to quality education that others from the same community but different country of national origin do not. We want to make sure that all children are counted and that students who are academically underperforming or not growing are identified for intervention and assistance even where the racial or ethic subgroup they are classified under is performing well or meeting state goals. We stand together with the AAPI community, because when there is an injustice that is allowed to perpetuate against one community of color, that is an injustice against us all.
We are deeply saddened and disappointed that parents and children will continue to have to fight for services and inclusion, when Congress had the power to change this unfair paradigm. Our paramount concern continues to be Arabic speaking children from low income families and/or attending economically disadvantaged schools. ADC will continue to fight to make sure the Arab community, as part of the growing English language learner community, right and access to an quality education are protected.