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A Civil Rights Framework for the Reauthorization of ESEA

The last several years have been trying for students, communities, and schools. As states and local educational agencies work to meet the significant health and educational needs of students, and address the vast racial and socioeconomic inequities that have been heightened by the pandemic, the federal role in education is critical. Because the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) remains the government’s most consequential mechanism to promote equity in public education, the upcoming reauthorization of the law’s latest version, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), presents an opportunity to re-envision this federal role in promoting access to quality educational opportunities. In this brief, the authors describe an equitable, evidence-based, and ecological civil rights framework to guide the redesign of ESSA. It places students, staff, school systems, and cross-sector collaboration at the center of ESEA and considers the complexity of racial, socioeconomic, and other inequities along with the strengths nested within communities.