I traveled to Washington on Friday March 13 to attend the Council of Great City Schools State and Federal Legislative Conference. EPISD is one of 67 urban public school districts on the Council and this annual legislative meeting is critically important to us because we want to be sure we have a voice in and understand legislation and policy at both the state and federal level.
During the weekend conference, we were informed that the President had selected 8 Sups and 3 school board members to personally visit the Whitehouse and discuss the “state of affairs” in urban school districts and the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.
I can’t imagine anyone keeping their cool when they get an invitation to the White House to meet the President of the United States. I was excited for the District to have a seat at the table, but most of my enthusiasm came at the chance to share the EPISD experience at such an important level.
During our meeting with the President we spoke about federal funding for programs that impact our neediest of students. The federal entitlement funds we receive are critical in our efforts to bring equity to education and close the achievement gap between students of low economic resources and their wealthier classmates. I’m happy to hear the President agrees that we need more entitlement funding and that he opposed efforts to cut it.
The President was also interested in our opinions in other topics and I was eager to share with him the history of what high-stakes testing did to EPISD. Using the cautionary tale of our District’s darkest periods, I expressed my concern that state and federal governments are relying too heavily on standardized testing. I understand and welcome the notion that Districts should have a system of accountability to the public (we will not run from that), but the current testing system is stressful for too many students and teachers — especially in areas with high concentrations of poverty and areas where our underserved students do not have help at home to grow in their academic careers. Less and more meaningful accountability measures will allow teachers to engage in active learning and more enjoyable engagement with students and will remove a mountain of stress for many of our kids.
All 11 school leaders who met with the President and U.S. secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday were members of the Council of the Great Cities Schools, a group of made up of superintendents and school board members from large, urban school systems. We represent a large number of American students who live in our urban cores, and these students face specific issues. As the only member present who came from the U.S.-Mexico border, I felt it was my responsibility to also share with the President the unique challenges kids in our schools face day after day. It was a very positive day for EPISD and I was proud to represent all of Team EPISD.
Because of each of you and your efforts to make EPISD great, we are being recognized nationally for our cultural and systematic improvements and I can assure you the best in yet to come.
Thank each for all you do to support our students and families!
The future is bright and each of you will play a part in building a district in which we can all be proud.
Below are some videos and photos from the meeting with the President. I hope you enjoy.
Links to stories about the meeting: