KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Parent and community input and engagement will be a required step as school districts implement models to reform and improve low-performing schools, according to the Obama administration's plans for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
In remarks to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Kansas City, Mo., U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan credited members of the civil rights community for proposing the idea to strengthen community involvement and engagement in school reform during a series of meetings at the White House and the department.
Duncan singled out NAACP President Ben Jealous for his leadership on education issues saying, "Thanks to you and your colleagues in the civil rights movement we are increasingly focused on what we need to do at the federal level to advance equity through education reform."
"Based on your input and the very productive engagement we have had around the school improvement grant program, we will revise our ESEA reauthorization plans to require parent and community input in our school turnaround program," Duncan said.
In recent weeks, administration officials have been deeply engaged with the civil rights community over the Obama administration's plans for ESEA reauthorization and other school reform programs. The School Improvement Program (SIG), which provides $4 billion to states and districts to turn around the lowest-performing schools many of which are in low-income and minority communities, was a key topic of discussion in the meetings.
In his keynote address to the NAACP, which is celebrating its 101st anniversary, Duncan outlined the administration's education reform agenda and called on the civil rights community to, "Make education reform, not just a goal, but a movement -- by placing education at the very core of the NAACP's agenda and to raise your voices for reform in your communities."
Duncan also outlined other steps his department is taking to advance educational equity, including rejuvenating the Office for Civil Rights, investing heavily in Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as other minority-serving institutions, and boosting Pell grant funding for low-income students attending college.
Duncan hinted at further plans to revise and modify the No Child Left Behind Act as a result of ongoing meetings with civil rights groups and other stakeholders, emphasizing, "Equity is woven through our entire agenda from critical formula programs like Title I to bold new grant programs that are driving local and state-level reforms."
Duncan closed by saying, "Opportunity, not poverty, shapes and molds the destiny of our nation's children. For 101 years, no one has understood this more than the NAACP and I know that no matter how hard this work and no matter how long this journey toward educational equity, you will always be setting the pace, lighting the path, and leading the march. I am proud and honored to march with you."