Obama hangs tough

Hit by civil rights groups who oppose Race to the Top, President Obama defended his education reforms in a speech to the Urban League.

“If a school isn’t producing graduates with even the most basic skills, year after year after year after year, something needs to be done differently. You know, the definition, somebody once said, of madness is you do the same thing over and over again and keep expecting a different result.”

. . . Even as we applaud teachers for their hard work, we’ve got to make sure that we’re seeing results in the classroom. If they’re not, let’s work with them to help them be more effective. And if that fails, let’s find the right teacher for that classroom.”

Obama deserves credit for hanging tough, writes Rick Hess. But he must beware of  Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s hubris.

Every time our earnest Secretary of Education speaks of late, he seems to unearth new things that Washington can and should do to schools. Earlier this month, he promised the NAACP that the administration would see that NCLB reauthorization required turnaround schools to obtain parent and community input as well as lead an “honest, open discussion.” Of course, Duncan is ardently pushing “state-led” national standards and watching his Department of Education flag 19 (!) states as impressive enough to merit being Race to the Top finalists.

In Duncan’s Urban League speech, which promised an commission on education equity, he pandered to the civil rights community, writes Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli, who agrees that Duncan promises more than he can deliver.

“We will ensure that all schools—public, private and charter—serve the kids most in need,” Duncan said. “That is also something you told us was important. We heard you loud and clear, we are responding and these schools will be held accountable.”

Duncan can’t “ensure” that private schools serve needy kids or hold them “accountable, ” Petrilli writes.

Accountable to whom? Most don’t get public funds. Many are more diverse than traditional public schools. What the heck is he talking about?

Ed Week sees Duncan’s speech as a strong defense of Race to the Top, pointing out he told reform critics, “You’re wrong.”

Obama’s education agenda is stalled in Congress, according to the Washington Post.

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