Module Summary

Module Overview: This module explores the organization of the U.S. public education system; provides information about Federal laws that provide assistance and establish some requirements for this system, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); and considers current trends and prospective policy changes that could impact military-connected children. The information in this module is intended to provide School Liaisons with a basic understanding of K–12 education in the U.S., from which the School Liaison can build more tailored knowledge that is specific to local context.

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Key Points:

  • School governance is the U.S. involves policy and players at Federal, state, local, and district levels. While broad policies and funding for special programs are set at the Federal level, states provide the majority of both education policy and funding for districts.
  • Because education is primarily a state and local responsibility, there is significant variation in curriculum, assessment, teacher quality, school funding, and other aspects of education.
  • States and districts have the authority to provide various types of schools and programs, including charter schools, which are publically funded.
  • The proportion of school revenue from states varies widely.
  • The Federal government provides funding for specific educational programs such as Title I, whose goal is to improve the academic achievement of disadvantages students; Perkins, aimed at improving career and technical education; and Impact Aid.
  • Special populations, such as English learners and students with special needs, are supported by Federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ESEA, IDEA, and others. These laws protect the rights of special populations of students and ensure funding for their education.
  • The primary goal of the current ESEA is to close achievement gaps between disadvantaged groups of students and their peers and to ensure that 100 percent of students are proficient on state assessments in reading/language arts and math by 2013–14.
  • State progress toward meeting the primary goal of ESEA is assessed by state testing of students in grades 3–8 and once in high school in reading/language arts and math and by the setting of annual targets to move toward 100 percent proficiency. Schools that attain the targets meet “adequate yearly progress” (AYP).
  • Schools that receive Title I funding for having a high number of low-income students are subject to sanctions and interventions if they do not meet AYP.
  • The current iteration of ESEA is slated to be revised based on a blueprint for reform provided by the Obama administration that includes focusing on turning around low-performing schools, encouraging innovation, and requiring state standards to be based on college and career readiness.
  • Common Core Standards is an important movement to standardize content standards across states and has been adopted in 43 states.
  • The topics of college and career readiness and extended/expanded learning are important because many students who graduate from high school are not prepared for higher education or the workforce.
  • Bolstered by research proving that a high quality preschool education can pay lasting dividends in student achievement, public funding for preschool programs is growing on a state-by-state basis.

Looking Forward: Next, learn about what School Liaisons need to know about Impact Aid to support families and districts.

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