Keeping Our Promises to Our Kids Through Accountability

Congress will soon vote on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a critical safeguard first enacted 50 years ago to ensure greater equity and opportunity for our most vulnerable students. Passing a strong ESEA is a matter of necessity; our students must have access to the best education possible if they are to compete on a global stage.

This means making certain they achieve academically, graduate from high school and college, and are ready for a career. Latino students have certainly made great strides, thanks in large part to the ESEA.

But there is still much to be done if we are to prepare a critical segment of the nation's future workforce for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Latino schoolchildren make up nearly one-quarter of the nation's students enrolled in the public education system. While the achievement gap has narrowed and graduation rates have improved, far too many of our Latino students do not have the opportunities or the support to reach their full potential.

There is no doubt that the measures implemented more than a decade ago have played a major role in improving our public education system. Increased accountability and transparency have allowed parents, schools, and the greater community to come together in partnership to identify areas of concern and take action to improve the educational achievement of our kids.

Passing an ESEA that fails to include these vital safeguards means we are abdicating our responsibility for the success of our children. Accountability is not just rhetoric -- nor is it just a slogan. It is a promise to our children and their parents that schools will quickly identify students who need an extra hand and intervene when necessary.

Transparency means that schools and districts will not hide when our kids are not achieving. Instead, action will be taken to make certain all of our children reach their full potential.

A new ESEA must therefore have as a critical centerpiece an accountability system that calls upon states to intervene in a timely manner when they see a subgroup of students falling behind. We know achievement gaps persist; we -- parents and community members -- need the necessary information to compel state action.

We cannot afford to travel a path where the achievement of students is swept under the rug, lost in simple percentage points when the school as a whole may be doing well, but subgroups of students -- like Latinos and English learners -- are not.

All of the nation's children are entitled to quality and equitable education opportunities. Our mandate as a nation is to pass an ESEA that forwards that purpose and responds to the more specific and emerging needs of a more diverse student population nationwide.

And so it is important today that we urge our nation's leaders in the House and the Senate to work together to make sure that these important measures of accountability make their way back into a final bill as they negotiate the differences between the House and the Senate versions.

Our kids deserve no less.