What They’re Saying About Secretary Duncan’s Vision for a New Elementary and Secondary Education Act

On Monday – which marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – Secretary Duncan laid out a bold vision for the nation’s education law that protects all students, ensures high-quality preschool, and supports state and local innovation.

Duncan’s vision for a reauthorized ESEA delivers on the promise of equity and opportunity for every child, including minority students, students with disabilities, low-income students, and English learners. In a speech at a Washington, D.C., elementary school, he called for greater resources for schools and educators, modernizing and supporting the teaching profession, and new efforts to reduce testing where it has become excessive.

Duncan said as the country moves away from No Child Left Behind—the latest version of ESEA—Congress faces a choice of whether to take a path that moves toward the promise of equity of opportunity, or a path that walks away from it. The nation can move forward, building on the progress students and educators have worked hard to achieve, or we can revert to a time of low expectations, wider achievement gaps, and uncertainty about the progress of our students—particularly the most vulnerable.

Here’s what people are saying about the need for a strong ESEA:


Sen. Patty Murray

“I am very glad that Secretary Duncan is so focused on reforming this broken law in a way that works for our students and makes sure no child falls through the cracks, and I am looking forward to working with him, Chairman Alexander and all our colleagues on a truly bipartisan bill to get this done.”

Rep. Mike Honda

“Public education is a cornerstone of our democracy. Getting a quality education is a civil right for each and every child in America. I’m glad that Secretary Duncan is proposing these bold steps to help us reach the goal of a quality education for each and every child. I look forward to working with him and fighting in Congress to see this program become a reality.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer

“Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson laid out his vision of robust federal investment in public education as a central component of the War on Poverty, marking the beginning of the successful effort to pass the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  Every child in America deserves a quality education that opens doors to opportunity and a career.  The ESEA’s premise has always been that a pathway to a secure place in America’s middle class begins in a safe and nurturing classroom.  Over the past five decades, Congress has reauthorized this law and made it stronger by coming together in a bipartisan way to put our children’s future first.”

Jonah Edelman, Stand for Children

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan strikes the right balance between more resources, reform, flexibility and accountability. As a country, we must remain deeply committed to the promise of equity in public education as a civil rights issue, a moral issue and an economic issue. We look forward to working with Congress and the administration to update the law so that it provides all children with the education they need to succeed.”

Dane Linn, Business Roundtable

“Business Roundtable member CEOs know firsthand the importance of benchmarking and measuring performance in building their own workforces. Gauging employee success helps shape changes or adjustments needed to ensure efficient company operations. This approach holds true for schools as well; we believe the U.S. education system can be made better and more efficient when student performance is regularly and consistently measured.

“Annual testing is a must-do for ESEA reauthorization. Assessments should be internationally benchmarked, aligned to the state’s standards and conducted statewide.

“Supporting effective teachers and school leaders goes hand-in-hand with testing – without proper instruction, students cannot be expected to live up to high expectations – and support for these education professionals is also a priority for Business Roundtable CEOs.”

Kris Perry, First Five Years Fund

“The First Five Years Fund greatly appreciates the swift progress being made to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This critical piece of legislation is essential to ensuring that our students are college and career ready and fully prepared for later success in life. But, we can’t achieve this goal as a nation if our children don’t begin school with a strong foundation built early in life.”

Mark Shriver, Save the Children Action Network

“Every child deserves a strong start to life, and we can ensure all American kids have an equal opportunity to succeed by expanding access to high-quality preschool. Save the Children Action Network applauds Secretary Duncan for reinforcing the administration’s commitment to early childhood education by making early learning a top priority in education reform. Broad bipartisan public support for expanding access to high-quality preschool has existed for years, but our leaders have thus far failed to invest in kids. Secretary Duncan’s call today to prioritize early childhood education should prompt legislators in both parties to take action. Save the Children Action Network remains committed to working in a bipartisan fashion at the federal, state and local levels to finding the funding mechanisms that can make expanded access to high-quality preschool a reality.”

Otha Thornton, President of National PTA

“Since 2007, families, students and educators have called on Congress to act on comprehensive reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB. National PTA advocates for specific improvements to the law that prioritize family engagement and address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable children. The association believes bipartisan legislative action is critical to provide support and resources to states and schools to improve family engagement, student achievement and school performance. Reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB has long been a key public policy priority of National PTA. The association urges Congress to take swift action to address needed changes to the law to improve education for all students and ensure every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.”

Carmel Martin, Center for American Progress

“A high-performing public school system is essential for our future economic competitiveness and the foundation of our nation as a place of opportunity for all. Today, Secretary Duncan laid out a vision for a federal education policy that will move all students, particularly those with the greatest needs, toward college and career readiness by providing the investments in interventions that are proven to work: early childhood education, more money for low-income schools, access to effective teachers, and rigorous academic coursework. While current annual assessments provide critically needed information on student and subgroup academic progress, Secretary Duncan also rightfully called for addressing legitimate concerns about an overemphasis on testing in schools. An overhaul of No Child Left Behind is overdue, but any rewrite must retain a core focus on equity and school improvement in order to address the pressing needs we face.”

Dan Weisberg, The New Teacher Project (TNTP)

“Duncan sketched out a sensible vision for how the law can continue to advance educational equity on many different fronts. In this vision, ESEA would encourage states to move forward with higher academic standards, and it would continue to require annual testing that provides a picture of how much students are actually learning every year.

“But Duncan believes the law could also do more than ever to help schools get the results we all want for our kids while responding to the concerns from both sides of the aisle. For example, Duncan recommended using the reauthorization to expand access to pre-kindergarten, provide greater funding to schools, and help ensure that teachers get the feedback and support they need to do their best work. He argued for better equity in arts education, noting that subjects like music and art shouldn’t be considered luxuries. His plan would also help curb over-testing by setting limits on the time schools spent on standardized tests.”

James Wendorf, National Center for Learning Disabilities

“As Secretary Duncan said in his speech today, tackling persistent achievement gaps requires deep understanding of student performance. Annual assessments are an important indicator that empowers families to make informed decisions on behalf of their child. At the same time, our educational system must prioritize quality assessments over quantity while still providing parents with a yearly update on their child’s academic performance.”

The Washington Post

“Some districts may test too often or teach too much to the test. There is room to fix problems and, as we said, improve the law. But any member of Congress should be embarrassed to even contemplate returning to an era when the absence of annual measurement allowed failure to be swept under the rug. Educational opportunity is, as Mr. Duncan said Monday, ‘a civil right, a moral imperative.’ The country needs to ensure that no one is being denied that right.”


  1. I become very confused because I care so much to listen to both sides of the common core issue. Mainly, I want students to be happy and both mentally and physically healthy, as well as have a deep love of reading and learning. I hope they can have healthy outdoor lunch and recess every day, rain or snow. Lots of free PE to figure out their own life sport or sports! And lots of Science field-trips. I want them to elect student councils that go to teacher meetings to learn about democracy. Because caring teachers draw them in. But that any student Is invited to school can attend if they want. I hope that the age groups won’t be separated, or races or gender, anymore so that they can mentore one another. I have the greatest confidence that recess is one of our great and most underestimated values within the school system. I feel we must invest deaply in quality, age appropriate recess, with recess audits. This may be one of the greatest investmenrs our country can make. Of all time.. Play is incredibly important for a society.

  2. Thank you Secretary Duncan for your work on this Act. I support you and your colleagues because we need to give our children the opportunities they deserve.

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