One thing a Democratic Party hungry for ideas might want to propose is the creation of an independent federal consumer-protection entity modeled on the FDA that establishes guidelines for curriculum product development and standard protocols for the teaching of basic skills such as reading and math. States would be free to ignore these standards but would lose federal funds if they did so. States embracing the standards would receive extra money and technical assistance to help realign their systems of teacher and principal training and certification; textbook evaluation and adoption; and student monitoring and evaluation to make all of them more evidence-based. In a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats could embrace the IES’ What Works Clearinghouse while noting that it lacks teeth, is underfunded, and needs a bigger educator-training component.
Democrats could likewise embrace promising, federally-funded alternative teacher training/certification regimes such as the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) and push for their adoption at the state level, where resistance (bipartisan) has been stiff.
They could unambiguously embrace the findings of Project Follow Through, the largest study ever conducted on approaches to reading instruction, whose results (direct instruction works best by far) were disowned by the Nixon administration after pressure from educators whose approaches (including whole language) fared poorly.
More generally, Democrats could send the message that they are on the side of science and against junk science in education, and on the side of parents who care, students who work hard, and educators who do what works. They and only they deserve greater federal support.
Barbash thinks there’s enough money in the system, if it’s spent intelligently. Most Democrats disagree.
I hope Gordon’s article shows Democrats are serious about education policy, and understand that there’s room for bipartisan agreement. But I’m not holding my breath.
Update: At TPM Cafe, Matt Yglesias thinks Democrats should stop using “states rights” as a way to bash No Child Left Behind. The problem with the bill is that it gives states too much leeway to evade standards, he writes.