AAUW Issues: Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Woman raising her hand in a classroom.

The American Association of University Women believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society, and strongly supports adequate and equitable funding. AAUW remains committed to ensuring strong academic principles and bias-free public education that closes the achievement gap for all children — objectives at the heart of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

As Congress and the administration contemplate reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – often referred to as No Child Left Behind – AAUW supports the following improvements to strengthen ESEA:

Require schools to disaggregate and cross-tabulate data.
1) Sex must be added to the group of categories for which the disaggregation of graduation rate data is required; 2) Graduation rate and academic assessment data reported by districts should be broken down by sex within race/ethnicity (i.e. cross-tabulated); and 3) The system must hold districts accountable for the performance of all subgroups of students and cross-tabulate that data by sex.

Additional AAUW Resources

Download Printable Quick Facts on ESEA

Enhance Title IX compliance by passing the High School Data Transparency Act (H.R.455/S.217).
This bipartisan legislation would require that high schools publicly report basic data on the number of female and male students participating in their athletic programs and the expenditures made for their sports teams.

Improve school climate.
AAUW’s report Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School shows that our country is dealing with a pervasive problem: Nearly half of all 7–12th grade students said that they have encountered some form of sexual harassment. Hostile school environments can lead to disastrous outcomes, especially for students who are targeted for failing to conform to gender stereotypes.

AAUW supports the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students Act (which has not yet been introduced in the 113th Congress), which would promote comprehensive and effective student conduct policies that define and prohibit bullying and harassment.

AAUW backs the School and Campus Safety Enhancements Act of 2013 (S.143), which would provide schools with resources to improve safety and security in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Strengthen STEM education.
AAUW supports promoting and strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, especially for girls and other underrepresented populations. AAUW’s 2010 report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, found that environmental and social barriers continue to block women’s full participation in these nontraditional STEM fields.  AAUW supports training teachers to encourage girls and other underrepresented groups to pursue STEM careers.

Save the Women’s Educational Equity Act.
WEEA was designed to give educators tools to eliminate barriers — such as sex stereotypes in classroom materials and curricula — that keep students from full participation and success in all areas of education. Such technical assistance is critical to Title IX compliance.

Expand training in gender-fair teaching.
Professional development for teachers should cover topics such as eliminating gender and racial bias in the classroom, sensitivity to gender and racial differences, and engaging students in the face of gender-based and racial peer pressure and parental expectations.

Use multiple measures and growth models.
AAUW supports using multiple measures of student achievement such as achievement and growth in English, math, and science, and, if states chose, other subjects. At the high school level, schools should also be evaluated on graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and rates of college enrollment without remediation.

Improve school accountability measures.
Schools should be held accountable for demonstrating that they are meeting educational goals. The federal government should offer incentives and assistance to struggling schools rather than punishment, which only further harms students and hamstrings educators from making progress in the schools most in need of improvement.

Promote public school choice.
It is in students’ best interests to be offered public school choice and flexibility. Such flexibility and innovation, however, must be consistent with civil rights laws, including Title IX. Public funds should only be used for public education – not private school vouchers that benefit only a few.

Oppose programs that rely on unproven sex stereotypes.
AAUW does not oppose the idea of public single-sex education per se, so long as it is appropriate, necessary, and done in a manner consistent with constitutional requirements and antidiscrimination laws. Unfortunately, the current federal regulations governing single-sex education allow for such programs without appropriate oversight or accountability, or even proof that such programs improve educational outcomes—something AAUW simply cannot support when precious tax dollars are at stake.

Invest in afterschool programs.
After-school programs should be expanded to enrich the school experience and improve educational outcomes. One program vehicle might be the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Early Childhood Education.
Providing a foundation of early childhood education will help improve and sustain achievement in later years, and save precious taxpayer dollars down the road. AAUW supports access to high-quality and affordable child care as well as funding increases for Head Start and Early Head Start to ensure all children are prepared for school.