6/27/2014 — 

WASHINGTON, DC  – In an effort to help students bridge the achievement gap, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) has introduced S. 2557, the Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence (CORE) Act.  The bill aims to tackle existing disparities in public education by establishing accountability requirements that compel states and school districts to give all students equitable access to the resources necessary to achieve college and career readiness by high school graduation.

In March 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights published data from a comprehensive survey of schools across the nation, which illustrated the magnitude of the achievement gaps that exist for students in the United States.  The survey found that Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native Alaskan students, as well as students who are English learners, attend schools with higher concentrations of inexperienced teachers.  The survey also found that nationwide, one in five high schools lack a school counselor, and between 10 and 25 percent of high schools do not offer more than one of the core courses in high school math and science, such as Algebra I and II, geometry, biology, and chemistry.

“We need to set high standards for all our students and help them reach their full potential.  Every child who comes through those school doors deserves a chance to succeed.  That chance doesn’t truly exist if there isn’t fair and equitable access to the resources necessary for college and career readiness.  We don’t want economically disadvantaged students being unfairly steered off the college and career track,” said Reed.  “This bill is about ensuring that all children have a quality education, with top-notch instruction and support, and that our teachers have the resources and flexibility they need to help students excel.  Achieving all of this is not easy, but working together with states and school districts, we must address disparities and do right by future generations.”

The CORE Act is cosponsored by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11) is taking the lead in the House of Representatives, where she has introduced companion legislation.  The bill is also supported by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; the American Federation of Teachers; the American Library Association; the National Education Association; Opportunity Action; the First Focus Campaign for Children; the League of United Latin American Citizens; and the Coalition for Community Schools.

“Education has always been a pathway to the middle class, but far too many children are not getting the opportunity they deserve,” Senator Brown said.  “We must close the achievement gap by instituting higher standards and ensuring a greater distribution of resources for all schools and students.  The CORE Act would accomplish this by providing more prepared teachers, better curricula, and ultimately, the chance students need to grow and succeed.” 

“Equal opportunity is at the center of America’s promise and potential.  We cannot maintain a competitive edge in the world when we forsake this principle in our public education system.  All of our nation’s students must be assured fair and equitable access to quality resources for core learning, yet the evidence is clear—we have failed millions of students.  The CORE Act is one step forward in righting that wrong,” said Representative Fudge.

Reed’s legislation will establish accountability standards for states and school districts, requiring that they provide fair and equitable access to the core resources for learning.  These resources include:

  • High quality instructional teams, including licensed and profession-ready teachers, principals, school librarians, counselors, and education support staff;
  • Rigorous academic standards and curricula that lead to college and career readiness by high school graduation, and are accessible to all students, including students with disabilities and English learners;
  • Equitable and instructionally appropriate class sizes;
  • Up-to-date instructional materials, technology, and supplies;
  • Effective school library programs;
  • School facilities and technology, including physically and environmentally sound buildings and well-equipped instruction spaces;
  • Specialized instructional support teams, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, and other qualified professionals; and
  • Effective family and community engagement programs.

“I applaud Senator Reed for introducing the CORE Act, as it represents a genuine and innovative attempt to hold districts and states responsible for their roles in the success of our students.  Underlying achievement gaps are resource gaps.  The CORE Act measures the efforts of states and school districts to actually provide equitable access to the core resources needed for learning.  Instead of rushing to close neighborhood schools, the CORE Act would allow districts to support and improve schools.  Senator Reed’s bill would move us past the current fixation on testing toward an accountability system that actually helps promote student learning and successful results,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Senator Reed’s CORE Excellence Act gets accountability right – grading schools on whether they deliver the teachers, counselors, individualized attention, and other resources kids need to succeed,” said First Focus Campaign for Children president Bruce Lesley.

“Senators Reed and Brown and Congresswoman Fudge deserve great praise for lifting up the importance of providing a core set of resources and supports to all students by introducing the CORE Act.  Equity demands that all students have access to resources for learning like up-to-date technology and school facilities, as well as supports like health care and mental health, as critical components to their academic success.  This bill is a strong step toward federal support for equitable resources to ensure that each and every child can thrive in school and in life,” said Martin Blank, director of the Coalition for Community Schools, and president of the Institute for Educational Leadership.

“The CORE Act is an important advance in addressing the equity issues we must confront if all students are to reach college and career readiness standards.  We cannot expect students to meet common high standards if they do not have in common excellent teaching, equitable curricula, and adequate support.  This bill begins to close the opportunity gap that creates the achievement gap,” said Linda Darling Hammond, Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

“Educational opportunity is CORE to our democracy.  The CORE Act is one of just a few pieces of federal legislation that is intended to address educational opportunity gaps and child poverty in a thoughtful and comprehensive fashion.  No child can thrive in America without access to well-prepared teachers, great principals, school counselors, school nurses and mental health services.  These key ingredients for success have been proven time and time again to matter.  The federal government can and should support state efforts to that achieve excellence through educational equity,” said Joseph Bishop, Executive Director of Opportunity Action.

Under the CORE Act, state accountability systems would be required to include measures of fair and equitable access to the core resources for learning, as well as a plan for identifying and addressing any inequities in access to them.  Information about access to these resources would also be reflected on state and district report cards.  States that fail to make progress in eliminating disparities for two or more consecutive years would be ineligible to participate in competitive grant programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  For school districts identified for improvement, the state would have to identify gaps in access to the core resources for learning and develop an action plan in partnership with the local school district to address those gaps.

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