Mitt Romney unveiled his education plan on Wednesday, grabbing headlines and getting the education-policy community buzzing. While noting that Governor Romney’s proposal is a “good start,” Mike Petrilli wrote on Flypaper that the plan risks “replacing federal overreach on accountability with federal overreach.” For more analysis on this issue, watch Mike’s WSJ.com interview:
The Romney education plan: Replacing federal overreach on accountability with federal overreach on school choice
Governor Mitt Romney’s long-awaited education address happened on Wednesday, but the most telling news broke Tuesday, when we learned that Margaret Spellings is no longer one of his education advisors. She quit on principle, I assume, because Romney decided to turn the page on No Child Left Behind. As his campaign’s education “talking points” read, “Governor Romney’s plan reforms [NCLB] by emphasizing transparency and responsibility for results. Rather than federally-mandated school interventions, states would have incentives to create straightforward public report cards that evaluate each school on its contribution to student learning.” (Read his thirty-four-page education policy white paper here.)
Gov. Romney wants to make Title I and IDEA dollars portable—a worthy idea, just make it voluntary.
Photo by Austin Hufford
Today, there’s not a single Republican in the House of Representatives, in the Senate, or running for president willing to defend federal accountability mandates. The GOP conversation has shifted to transparency, in line with what we’ve called Reform Realism. What a difference a decade makes.
The thrust of Romney’s speech, however, wasn’t his fresh view of accountability, but a major proposal on school choice. Romney wants to make Title I and IDEA dollars portable—a form of
Three cheers for California’s governor, state superintendent, and state board chair, for applying for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Child Left Behind) that doesn’t kowtow to Washington.
Finally, a state willing to call out the Administration on the illegality of its waiver policy.
While Jerry Brown, Tom Torlakson, and Mike Kirst deserve plenty of criticism for their indifference to education reform—kicking charter supporters off the state board, cozying up to the teacher unions—on this one they deserve nothing but kudos.
In a nine-page request (still in draft form for another month), they ask Arne Duncan to allow California to use its own accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API), and to scrap AYP. Mimicking language Duncan himself has used, they write:
Unrealistic and ever-increasing performance targets have forced us to label 63 percent of Title I schools and 47 percent of districts receiving Title I funds as needing improvement, and to apply sanctions that do not necessarily lead to improved learning for the students in those schools. This practice has confused the public, demoralized teachers, and tied up funds that could have been more precisely targeted on the schools and districts that are most in need of improvement.
But they refuse to meet one of Duncan’s conditions for such flexibility: Namely, the creation of a statewide teacher evaluation system. From Politics K-12:
Why? The cash-strapped state just doesn't have the funds to help school districts
Two weeks ago, when the House Education and the Workforce committee marked-up two major ESEA reauthorization bills, Democrats and their allies screamed bloody murder. Ranking member (and former chairman) George Miller called the bills “radical” and “highly partisan” and said they would “turn the clock back decades on equity and accountability.” A coalition of civil rights, education reform, and business groups said they amounted to a “rollback” of No Child Left Behind.
Perhaps Rep. Miller and his allies are "conservatives" on education after all.
Photo by George Miller.
Miller put forward his own bills, which most of the self-same groups quickly endorsed, and which, Miller argues, “eliminate inflexible and outdated provisions of No Child Left Behind and requires states and [districts] to adopt strong but flexible and achievable standards, assessments, and accountability reforms.”
So let’s see how Miller and company do at “eliminating inflexible and outdated provisions of NCLB” and requiring “strong but flexible” accountability systems. The package…
states to expect “all” students to eventually reach college and
career-readiness. (Didn’t we learn from NCLB that calling for “universal
proficiency” merely pushes states to lower the bar?)
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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