Wednesday, April 29, 2015

ESEA Reauthorization: Coordination Across Programs, How to Make It Real

The term “coordinate” is used 27 times in the Senate reauthorization bill, Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA), for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The term “coordinated” is used eight times in the reauthorization bill.  The term “coordination” is used 23 times. There are some strong assumptions underlying the use of coordinate and its derivatives. The most obvious one is this – vulnerable, at risk students, including those with disabilities, are most often served by multiple players both inside and out of the educational system that, unless asked to do so, do not coordinate with each other in meaningful ways.

In the absence of real coordination, we see redundant assessments, multiple plans being developed, endless meetings, an inefficient documentation process, divergent accountability systems, and mixed results.

Even with the good intentions underlying the frequent use of the word, “coordinate” and its derivatives in the Senate bill, I fear that not much will change because of the silos and politics at the local level. "Coordinate" is a vague term. Youcould do almost anything to comply – send an email, make a phone call, or include somebody in a meeting. Of course, if those involved in serving at risk and vulnerable children took the coordination provisions in ECAA seriously, they could devise ways to save time and money, reduce stress on parents and staff, and accomplish more. Although the U.S. Secretary of Education may opt to regulate on the term, I would recommend other options – with discretionary funds in ECAA, (1) establish websites where people can share effective approaches to coordination and (2) support one-stop shop demonstrations, where grantees have maximum flexibility as they experiment with family-friendly coordination.

Do these two ideas require amendments to ECAA when it reaches the Senate floor? No. But, amendments laying out how they would happen would make them more likely.

Thank you.

Common Grounder

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