AASA: Educate the ‘total child’

Duncan is focusing on rural schools as stimulus funds flow to districts nationwide.
Duncan is focusing on rural schools as stimulus funds flow to districts nationwide.

Three days after his confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan reportedly called Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, to arrange a conference call with 15 rural superintendents to hear what their needs were–and how the federal stimulus package could help meet those needs.

“We’re excited that we have a Secretary of Education who listens to us,” Domenech said at AASA’s annual conference Feb. 19. He noted that Duncan–a former superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools and AASA member–said the conference call wasn’t a one-time occurrence and would happen again throughout his tenure as secretary.

Domenech’s story illustrates how AASA once again has been given a place at the national policy-making table under the Obama administration. And that’s important, Domenech said, as Congress prepares to reauthorize the federal No Child Left Behind Act later this year.

AASA is advocating for “educating the total child,” Domenech said, and it has partnered with the nation’s largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, to help spread this message.

The groups want more money for Title I and Head Start and full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the federal stimulus package passed by Congress last month marks a good start toward accomplishing these goals.

“It’s so encouraging that we have an administration that is responsive to this message,” Domenech said.

But school leaders must use this additional money for Title I and IDEA wisely if they want it to continue going forward, he warned.

Educating the total child is the centerpiece of a six-point proposal for reauthorizing the federal education law that AASA has advanced as lawmakers begin their work. The other five points of emphasis are:

• Refocus resources on low-income students.

• Reframe the federal role to create a continuum of services, rather than a patchwork of disconnected programs.

• Revitalize the federal-local partnership to focus on capacity building and support, not punishment for failure to attain goals.

• Modernize assessment and accountability tools to more accurately reflect the effects of instruction. “We’ve got to move beyond one-shot testing,” said AASA Associate Executive Director Bruce Hunter.

• Make processes and results transparent.

Hunter said AASA would hold a webinar for its members every Tuesday in March to discuss the federal stimulus spending. The first of these webinars is today from 1-2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. AASA members can register for the event at the organization’s web site.


American Association of School Administrators

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