In recent years, federal accountability for education has focused solely on outcomes while remaining silent on the inputs necessary to bring about those outcomes. In other words, students, teachers, and schools are being punished when they do not meet certain federal standards for achievement on standardized tests. Those punishments include holding children back, not allowing students to graduate, mass teacher lay-offs, and closing schools. This trend has only intensified in the last few years with policies that raise the standards even higher, such as Race to the Top and the implementation of Common Core in most states. While standards have grown, there has still been lack of attention given to inputs, resulting in funding for education on the federal, state, and local level falling for the first time since 1977. With the combination of failing to focus on inputs as well as outcomes and funding cuts unprecedented for over 30 years, it is unfortunately not surprising that the ingredients that help children succeed in school are lacking for many students, and leading to lower academic achievement even while standards are becoming harder to meet.

The Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence Act (S.2557, H.R.5001) takes steps to reverse this uneven accountability system. Introduced by Senator Reed (D-RI) along with Senator Brown (D-OH) and Representative Fudge (D-OH), the bill will help close academic achievement gaps by increasing every child’s access to the resources necessary for learning.

The Civil Rights Data Collection by the U.S. Department of Education reveals stunning gaps in access to the basic components that lead to academic achievement for students. For example, 20 percent of high school students attend a school with no school counselor while between 10 and 25 percent of high schools do not offer more than one of the core courses in math and science. Additionally, students of color and English language learners attend schools with higher proportions of inexperienced teachers than their white and native English-speaking peers. Students without access to core classes, who are taught overwhelmingly by undertrained and inexperienced teachers, and who don’t have school counselors or other support staff shouldn’t be expected to meet the rigorous standards set out by federal legislation and the Common Core.

Yet they are; federal accountability systems require all schools and students to reach the same achievement levels despite unequal access to essential resources for educational excellence, and federal accountability remains silent on those resources.

The Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence Act would change accountability standards to include the resources that every child needs to succeed in school. This would greatly expand access to resources such as specialized support teams, appropriate class sizes, up-to-date class materials, and support staff such as school counselors. By recognizing the ingredients necessary excel in school, the legislation begins to address the core issues of scant resources facing many students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students from low-income families. Expanding federal accountability in education this way will help close the access gap to these essential resources and ultimately help close academic achievement gaps.