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2011 Informing the Debate: Bringing Civil Rights Research to Bear on the Reauthorization of the ESEA

Authors: The Civil Rights Project
Date Published: April 21, 2011

The Civil Rights Project sponsored a briefing on the major issues in renewal of the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The briefing took place in the Senate Visitors Center of the U.S. Capitol building on April 21, 2011 and was attended by congressional staffers, agency experts, researchers, and representatives of major education and civil rights organizations.


The CRP has held a series of such briefings over the last twelve years. The first of such briefings, in 1992, saw the release of studies commissioned from across the nation on ways in which federal education law could produce real gains. Those first studies were published in 1999 by the Civil Rights Project as Hard Work for Good Schools, Facts not Fads in Title I Reform.   The Project’s subsequent national and regional conferences, and commissioned papers on the dropout issue, were directly related to the inclusion of dropout accountability in the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.  After NCLB was enacted, we followed the implementation in six states and published a series of reports, which gave early warning of many problems that later became apparent across the nation, as well as two books, NCLB Meets School Realities (2005) and Holding NCLB Accountable (2007), which contained many ideas for improving policies.

This 2011 briefing was not intended to give comprehensive treatment to all of the many issues involved in renewing federal law, such as the proposals to assess the difference individual teachers make.  During the conference we distributed four policy briefs on important new issues we hope to add to the debates that will have a deep impact on U.S. schools in the next decade or more.  These briefs deal with civil rights issues related to central proposals of the Obama administration to change accountability,  improve federal policy toward the tenth of American students who are English language learners, reverse the intensifying and educationally destructive concentration of U.S. students in segregated concentrated poverty schools, and limit the extraordinary costs of dropouts and unfair treatment in schools that helps lead to the dropout catastrophe harming many communities. 

Policy Papers

These short policy briefs include citations to many longer scholarly studies as well as to numerous reports of the Civil Rights Project, which can be found on this website. 

  • School Accountability: Effective turnarounds and the need for an entirely separate response to ensure robust yet reasonable accountability for low-performing subgroups.
  • CRP Resource List for attendees includes a multitude of resources by CRP researchers available on this website and others.


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