Trust, but verify.
Photo by The Official CTBTO Photostream.
A couple months ago, I wrote about the conflict between my conservative philosophy on the role of the feds in K–12 education and states’ inability to sufficiently address (and, in some cases, their near indifference to) the achievement gap.
In short, my default setting is that most major K–12 decisions should be made by states and the entities they create for these purposes. But evidence since the mid-1960s shows that this formula has led to lots of disadvantaged kids falling and staying behind.
I’m unable to fully embrace a “Therefore-Uncle-Sam-Must-Take-Charge” approach because, ideology aside, experience shows that federal pronouncements and mandates run into a bevy of implementation roadblocks and seldom translate into the results we hope to see.
This tension is front and center in the debate—if you can call virtual inaction “debate”—over ESEA reauthorization. Many on the right simple want USED out of this business entirely. Indeed, I was in a state capital earlier this week, and a long-serving conservative state legislator told me that everything the Department has done since its inception 30 years ago has been a net negative for kids.
I have no reason to believe that ESEA will get reauthorized any time soon, partially because the administration appears to have
Here’s something to ponder with furrowed brow as Election Day nears.
In my spare-time reading, I’ve recently been on a twentieth-century-U.S. Presidents kick. This morning, as TV coverage of Tuesday’s election was simmering in the background, I finished a third very good book in the last few months.
And then suddenly it struck me.
In each of these books, international relations loom large. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a meaningful passage from any of the books about K-12 education. So I went to the indexes.
From Eisenhower to Bush, education gets scant attention in presidential bios.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
I just finished the revealing The Presidents Club, which tries to uncover the relationships between current and former presidents. It stretches from Truman to Obama.
Number of references to “education” in the index of this 527-page book?
In a chapter on LBJ’s relationship with Eisenhower, “aid to education” appears among a long list of domestic issues on Johnson’s agenda.
Before that was Robert Caro’s latest on LBJ, the extraordinary The Passage of Power, which focuses on how Johnson shifted from emasculated vice president to briefly omnipotent president in a matter of weeks
Number of references to “education” in the index of this voluminous book?
LBJ’s “education bill” shows up twice. In the first reference, it
A huge part of my educational worldview is “sector agnosticism,” my disinterest in who runs schools as long as those schools are high performing. My new book is built around this philosophy; it argues for a new urban school system that assesses each school based on its performance and then applies strategies to schools based on their performance not on their operators.
Private schools should be part of the urban school system of the future.
Unlike so many others studying urban education, I believe that private schools should be part of this urban school system of the future. Per my axiom above, I don’t much care if an urban school is run by a private or religious organization if it gets great results for underserved kids and adheres to basic democratic, pluralistic principles.
But in the past when the state attempts to fold private schools into the mix via scholarship or tax-credit programs, public accountability is always the major stumbling block. Will participating private schools test students and report results? Will they test just the scholarship kids or all of their students? What test will they use? Will low-performance disqualify a private school from participation?
It has appeared for years that public debate and public policy would be unable to solve this problem. But we may have had a breakthrough.
As Ed Week’s Eric Robelen reports in this fascinating article, more and more private schools are choosing
While I was away on vacation, Andy “Eduwonk” Rotherham took to the pages of the Washington Post to excoriate Virginia for setting “together and unequal” standards as part of its approved ESEA-waiver application. “The state,” Rotherham wrote, “took the stunning step of adopting dramatically different school performance targets based on race, ethnicity and income.” By 2017, Virginia expects 78 percent of white students and 89 percent of Asian students to pass its math tests, “but just 57 percent of black students, 65 percent of Hispanics students, and 59 percent of low-income students.” The solution, Rotherham writes, is for Virginia “to set common targets that assume minority and poor students can pass state tests at the same rate as others.”
Why is it so “stunning” that Virginia wouldn’t expect the achievement gap to evaporate in just five years?
I appreciate the intuitive appeal of Rotherham’s argument; it was a similar concern about backing away from NCLB’s lofty goals that led me to attack an earlier set of tweaks way back in 2005. But on this one, Andy’s got it wrong, and Virginia officials have it right. As David Foster, the president of Virginia’s state board of education told the Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton, “If you just set an arbitrary target without regard for what’s achievable and where they’re starting from, you’re just shooting in the dark. That was the whole problem with No Child Left Behind. It made no sense
About the Editor
Michael J. Petrilli
Executive Vice President
Mike Petrilli is one of the nation's foremost education analysts. As executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, he oversees the organization's research projects and publications and contributes to the Flypaper blog and weekly Education Gadfly newsletter.
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