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After working to fix No Child Left Behind last year, Senator Murray is focused on making sure the new law works for students and families in Washington state and across the country
 
Murray:I will be closely monitoring several issues to make sure our law lives up to its intent to provide all students with a high quality education.”
 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)’s annual legislative conference and spoke at length about implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Senator Murray said that as the Department of Education and state governments begin carrying out the new law, she will be focused on holding states and schools accountable for providing all students with a high-quality education, implementing the preschool grant program effectively, and helping ensure ESSA works for Washington state students and families.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared:

 

“For years, I had been hearing from students, parents, teachers, and school leaders about how No Child Left Behind was badly broken. For one, teachers and students were spending too much time on testing. And oftentimes, those tests were redundant or unnecessary. And No Child Left Behind issued one-size-fits-all mandates, but then failed to give schools the resources they needed to improve. So people across the country, and especially in my home state, were looking to Congress to fix this broken law. Here’s what our law does: The new law gives states more flexibility from No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all requirements. But it also includes strong federal guardrails for states as they design their accountability systems. It also reduces reliance on high-stakes testing. And it makes significant new investments to improve and expand access to preschool so that our nation’s youngest learners start kindergarten ready to succeed, to name just a few provisions in the law. But reauthorizing this law was not the finish line. It was a starting point for schools, districts, and states to begin the hard work of transitioning away from No Child Left Behind and turn the page.”

 

“Now, and in the coming months, this law will go from legislative text to action steps, as state leaders, superintendents, principals, teachers, and many more stakeholders get to work to carry it out. I will be closely monitoring several issues to make sure our law lives up to its intent to provide all students with a high quality education. Because, I believe our nation’s primary education law is, at its heart, a civil rights law. That’s why I made accountability such an important priority in our bill. We know from past experience that without strong accountability, kids from low-income neighborhoods, students of color, kids with disabilities, and students learning English too often fall through the cracks. I expect the Department to use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to hold schools and states accountable for offering a quality education to all students. That includes things like ensuring states and districts take action to improve student achievement in any school that has groups of students who are not achieving academically. And it includes enforcing the state-level cap on the use of simplified alternate assessments for students with disabilities.”

 

“Another aspect of the law I am particularly proud of is the Preschool Development Grant program. I am so glad that for the first time, our nation’s primary education law will provide dedicated funding for early childhood education. I fought hard for this, because I know that investing now in high-quality preschool will pay off for years to come. Before I ever thought much about running for elected office, I taught preschool in a small community in my home state of Washington. I remember the first day with new students would always start the same way. Some kids wouldn’t know how to hold a pencil or how to turn a page in a book. But over the first few months, they would start to catch on. They learned how to listen at story time. And they learned how to line up for recess. By the time they left for kindergarten, they had those basic skills and so many more, so they could tackle a full curriculum in school. I’ve seen the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. And I know school leaders across the country also understand the importance of kids starting school ready to learn. In fact, states have been leading the way on expanding access to preschool. And I am so glad that moving forward, the federal government will be able to partner with states to maximize the progress you are making.  But we still have a long way to go to ensure that every child have access to high-quality preschool. And I hope we can continue to partner on this issue in the future.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared:

 

“Thank you for that introduction, and I want to thank Chris, along with Tony Evers and CCSSO for all of your hard work. Last year, as we were working on our bill, your advice and feedback was absolutely essential in creating legislation that would work for schools, students, and communities. Through your advocacy and support, we were able to get our bill over the finish line and signed into law. And I know your organization is already leading the way in helping states understand and prepare for implementing this law. So again, thank you very much. It is great to have this chance to talk to you.

 

“I know you all are working on taking the next steps on the Every Student Succeeds Act and ramping up efforts to implement the law. This is an exciting time for public education. I’ll talk today about the implementation process and your organization’s important role in getting this right. But I want to start with how we got to this point. For years, I had been hearing from students, parents, teachers, and school leaders about how No Child Left Behind was badly broken. For one, teachers and students were spending too much time on testing. And oftentimes, those tests were redundant or unnecessary. And No Child Left Behind issued one-size-fits-all mandates, but then failed to give schools the resources they needed to improve. So people across the country, and especially in my home state, were looking to Congress to fix this broken law.

 

“I was so pleased that Chairman Alexander and I were able to work together on a solution. It was almost exactly a year ago that we brought our bipartisan Senate bill to a markup in our Committee. We kept improving that bill in Committee and on the Senate floor. When the bill passed through the Senate last summer, we then got to work with our counterparts in the House – Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Scott. And I’m proud we were able to break through the partisan gridlock in Congress, find common ground, and pass the Every Student Succeeds Act with strong bipartisan support. 

 

“Here’s what our law does: The new law gives states more flexibility from No Child Left Behind’s one-size-fits-all requirements. But it also includes strong federal guardrails for states as they design their accountability systems. It also reduces reliance on high-stakes testing. And it makes significant new investments to improve and expand access to preschool so that our nation’s youngest learners start kindergarten ready to succeed, to name just a few provisions in the law. But reauthorizing this law was not the finish line. It was a starting point for schools, districts, and states to begin the hard work of transitioning away from No Child Left Behind and turn the page.

 

“Now, and in the coming months, this law will go from legislative text to action steps, as state leaders, superintendents, principals, teachers, and many more stakeholders get to work to carry it out. I will be closely monitoring several issues to make sure our law lives up to its intent to provide all students with a high quality education. Because, I believe our nation’s primary education law is, at its heart, a civil rights law. That’s why I made accountability such an important priority in our bill. We know from past experience that without strong accountability, kids from low-income neighborhoods, students of color, kids with disabilities, and students learning English too often fall through the cracks. I expect the Department to use its full authority under the Every Student Succeeds Act to hold schools and states accountable for offering a quality education to all students. That includes things like ensuring states and districts take action to improve student achievement in any school that has groups of students who are not achieving academically. And it includes enforcing the state-level cap on the use of simplified alternate assessments for students with disabilities.

 

“I will also be taking a close look at guidance and regulations from the Department for school interventions and supports, because that will be critical to helping low-performing schools improve. The regulatory process is designed to include feedback from organizations like yours. I encourage your organization to stay involved, like you have been doing, throughout that process, so the final regulations reflect your input and feedback.

 

“Of course, our bill maintains strong federal guardrails. But it also gets rid of the one-size-fits-all mandates, and it empowers states to develop strong accountability systems. So at the state level, you all now have greater power to help ensure all students have access to a quality education. That new power comes with new responsibilities. And so much of what it’s going to take to uphold the civil rights components of this law will now rest on your shoulders. As you work on your accountability plans, I’d like to see states consult with a diverse group of stakeholders, including civil rights groups, parents, and teachers to take into account their voices and perspectives. That will help ensure that schools provide a high quality education to all students, regardless of where they live, how they learn, and how much money their parents make.

 

“I know CCSSO has already begun to work on accountability issues. As one example, the law takes positive steps forward to make sure English learners have access to effective English language programs. Incorporating English language proficiency into state accountability systems is going to be hard work. I know it will require many shifts in the way states currently operate. And I appreciate your organization for hitting the ground running to help states understand and move forward on those new guidelines. I hope that you will continue to lead the way on this and many other issues that are important to students, parents, teachers, and communities.

 

“Another aspect of the law I am particularly proud of is the Preschool Development Grant program. I am so glad that for the first time, our nation’s primary education law will provide dedicated funding for early childhood education. I fought hard for this, because I know that investing now in high-quality preschool will pay off for years to come. Before I ever thought much about running for elected office, I taught preschool in a small community in my home state of Washington. I remember the first day with new students would always start the same way. Some kids wouldn’t know how to hold a pencil or how to turn a page in a book. But over the first few months, they would start to catch on. They learned how to listen at story time. And they learned how to line up for recess. By the time they left for kindergarten, they had those basic skills and so many more, so they could tackle a full curriculum in school. I’ve seen the kind of transformation that early learning can inspire in a child. And I know school leaders across the country also understand the importance of kids starting school ready to learn. In fact, states have been leading the way on expanding access to preschool. And I am so glad that moving forward, the federal government will be able to partner with states to maximize the progress you are making.  But we still have a long way to go to ensure that every child have access to high-quality preschool. And I hope we can continue to partner on this issue in the future.

 

“You know, at the beginning of last year, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to reach agreement on reauthorizing our nation’s primary education law. Gridlock and dysfunction have come to define Congress over the past several years. But on an issue as important as education, and on a law as broken as No Child Left Behind, we worked together and found a way to find common ground. That collaboration isn’t over. In fact, going forward, it will be more important than ever. Working together is the only way we’ll be able to make sure this law is working for all students, so they can learn, grow, and thrive in the classroom and beyond. That’s why I truly hope stakeholders and groups will continue that spirit of working together, of bringing all groups to the table, and of making sure this law works for all students.

 

“Getting this right is so important – not just for students today. It’s also so important for our economy and really, the future of our country. When all students have the chance to learn, we strengthen our workforce. Our nation grows stronger. We grow our economy from the middle out, not the top down. And we empower the next generation of Americans to lead the world. Putting students on a path to succeed in the classroom and beyond is a goal I know we all share. And I thank you for all the work you do every day to help make it a reality.”