School Power Devolution and ESEA Reauthorization

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am anxiously awaiting the details of the Obama administration’s proposed reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Hopefully, I’m not jumping to conclusions, but recent comments by Sec. Duncan concerning the reauthorization give a school power devolution proponent like myself hope for the future of education reform. In a September 24th speech titled “Reauthorization of ESEA: Why We Can’t Wait,” US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the statement:


“In my view, we should be tight on the goals—with clear standards set by states that truly prepare young people for college and careers—but we should be loose on the means for meeting those goals.”

My interpretation of his comment, which admittedly could  be incorrect, is that we will see in the administration’s proposal an insistence that states adopt high education standards, something that they were not required to do under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. But also, it sounds like the proposal could include provisions that support the devolution of authority to the district and school-building levels; holding schools to high standards, but giving leaders at the school and district levels the flexibility to figure out how best to reach those standards for the unique populations that they serve. This move would not be surprising given the administration’s support of the charter school concept which in most places does just that.

I’m only speculating, but we shouldn’t have to wait long to see the details. Duncan has said that serious consideration of ESEAs reauthorization should begin in January 2010.


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