Policy Priorities

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ESEA Reauthorization

Did You Know?

  • More than 60 percent of students in grades four, eight, and 12 are unable to perform reading and math at grade level.
  • More than 25 percent of all high school students drop out or do not graduate on time.
  • For minority students the results are far worse: 80 percent in grades four, eight, and 12 cannot perform reading or math at grade level, and more than 40 percent later drop out or do not graduate on time.
  • U.S. students, who once led the world in academic achievement, are behind their counterparts in other countries, performing in the “average” or “below average” range on the most recent (2010) Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA ).


The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the major federal statute governing public education in states and districts across the country. Last authorized by Congress in 2002, ESEA is long overdue for reauthorization.  While the President has made clear that education reform is a priority of his Administration, Congress has yet to follow through on rewriting the law. The Children’s Defense Fund is committed to ensuring that ESEA is reauthorized THIS YEAR, with key protections and improvements for our most vulnerable children.

CDF Priorities for ESEA Reauthorization

 While the “Blueprint for Education Reform” released by the Obama Administration provides a strong framework, we must go further to include protections and improvements for our most vulnerable children. CDF has identified key priorities for education reform, which include improving funding equity for children in concentrated poverty, expanding access to full day kindergarten, helping children stay in school and graduate, and increasing educational support for children in juvenile detention facilities and foster care.

Other Resources for Education Reform

Law of Unintended Consequences: CDF President Marian Wright Edelman makes the case for reauthorizing ESEA this year.

Revising the Title I Funding Formula: Funding for Title I is distributed according to a complex formula that that disproportionately favors small states, states that already make significant investments in education, and large school districts. A revision of the Title I funding formula is necessary to ensure that ALL children are given an equal opportunity to succeed no matter where they live.

Obama Administration “Blueprint for Education Reform” Chart: A chart which shows the changes proposed by the Obama Administration to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left behind), as set out in its Blueprint for Education Reform.

Glossary of Education Terms: A glossary of important terms commonly used in discussions about federal education policy.

Related Videos on Education Reform

Amy Wilkens
Youtube video image of Judith Browne Dianis
Secretary Arne Duncan,
U.S. Dept. of Education
  Amy Wilkins,
The Education Trust
  Judith Browne-Dianis,
The Advancement Project
Watch “I Wish Parents Were Telling Me to Go Faster” »   Watch “Cheating Our Children” »   Watch “Juvenile Court Judges Have Bigger Fish to Fry Than Suspended Students” »