Lance Izumi talks about Obama’s Education Takeover in the Opinion Journal.
Since Arne Duncan supports evaluating educators, Diane Ravitch grades his performance as education secretary: F. He fails respecting the federal government’s limited role in education and following the law, which bans the department from establishing a national curriculum. And there’s more.
Have the policies promulgated by Duncan been good for the children of the United States?
No. Most parents and teachers and even President Obama (and sometimes Duncan himself) agree that “teaching to the test” makes school boring and robs classrooms of time for the imaginative instruction and activities that enliven learning. The standardized tests that are now ubiquitous are inherently boring. As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, teachers should teach with “creativity and passion,” but they can’t do that when tests matter so much. Spending hours preparing to take pick-the-bubble tests depresses student interest and motivation. This is not good for children. Yet Duncan’s policies—which use test scores to evaluate teachers and to decide which schools to close and which teachers to pay bonuses to—intensively promote teaching to the test. This is not good for students. Grade: F.
Do Duncan’s policies encourage teachers and inspire good teaching?
No. Duncan’s policies demean the teaching profession by treating student test scores as a proxy for teacher quality. A test that a student takes on one day of the year cannot possibly measure the quality of a teacher. (Officially, the administration suggests that test scores are supposed to be only one of multiple measures of teacher quality, but invariably the scores outweigh every other component of any evaluation program, as they did in New York City’s recent release of the teacher ratings.) Nor do most teachers want to compete with one another for merit pay.
Ravitch ends by flunking just about everyone. “It is hard to find any leader of either party who stands forthrightly today as a champion of students, teachers, public schools, and good education.”
Obama’s Education Record includes some success stories — and soft spots, write Mike Petrilli and Tyson Eberhardt in Education Next.
His Race to the Top (RttT) initiative catalyzed a chain reaction of legislative action at the state level, securing key reforms on issues ranging from charter schools to teacher evaluations to rigorous standards. His stimulus and “edujobs” bills seemed to maintain a critical level of investment in the public schools during a time of difficult budget cuts and financial strain. His administrative action to provide flexibility on No Child Left Behind’s most onerous provisions bypassed a paralyzed Congress and partially fulfilled his campaign promise to lift the law’s yoke off the backs of decent but maligned schools. . . .
. . . both the Common Core State Standards effort and the move toward rigorous teacher evaluations could lead to dramatic increases in student achievement, if implemented faithfully by states and school districts. Neither of these reforms would have been adopted so quickly, in so many places, were it not for the president’s leadership.
But the stimulus wasted a lot of money, they write. Race to the Top states have back-pedaled on reforms.
And Washington keeps tightening the screws on the states, while promising flexibility. Race to the Top required states to “develop plans that complied with federal guidelines set forth in excruciating detail.” No Child Left Behind waivers required more hoop jumping. Now the Education Department has declared that “a disproportionate percentage of white students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes constitutes evidence of racial discrimination.”
“Obama and Duncan have been good on education reform” compared to their Democratic predecessors, write Petrilli and Eberhardt. But “the administration deserves to be pressed on the cost-effectiveness of its education system bailouts, on the results of its Race to the Top initiative, and on the wisdom of its approach to federalism and separation of powers.”
President Obama has waived No Child Left Behind requirements for 10 states ”in exchange for embracing the Obama administration’s educational agenda,” reports the New York Times.
Education Trust analyzes what each state promised to earn a waiver, highlighting the best and “most worrisome” ideas.
Obama and Duncan Waive Goodbye to Systemic Reform, headlines RiShawn Biddle, who objects to putting low-income, minority, disabled and non-fluent student in one high-needs subgroup.
States had to jump through a lot of hoops to get very limited flexibility, writes Rick Hess.
The U.S. Department of Education could be violating federal law by using Race to the Top to push Common Core Standards, argues The Road to a National Curriculum (pdf), sponsored by the Pioneer Institute, the Federalist Society, the American Principles Project, and the Pacific Research Institute of California.
By law, the department is barred from “directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.”
Lance Izumi piles on in Obama’s Education Takeover.
It’s time to reboot the ever-growing federal role in education argues Choice and Federalism by the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education: States should be free of federal constraints as long as they provide information on school performance and let parents choose their children’s schools.
The federal government has three critical responsibilities, the task force concluded:
creating and disseminating information on school performance, enforcing civil rights, and providing financial support to high-need students via “backpack” funding attached to individual pupils.
“Today, Washington is stuck in an education policy rut,” said task force chairman Chester E. Finn Jr. “On one side we find those who would simply let states do whatever they like with the federal dollars. On the other side are those who want the federal government to tighten the centrally prescribed accountability screws even harder. This debate is going nowhere, as is evident from Congress’s multiyear failure to reauthorize what just about everyone agrees is a badly flawed law.”