President Obama’s announcement that ten states (sorry, New Mexico!) would be freed from the requirements of No Child Left Behind was big news from coast-to-coast yesterday. As he noted in a Gadfly Weekly editorial, Mike is skeptical, and in print, on TV, and over the airwaves, he weighed in on what it all means.
Mike made a brief appearance on the NBC Nightly News before joining Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitch Chester and Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett on NPR's All Things Considered. “There’s a huge gap between what the states asked for and what they ended up with,” he noted in the Washington Post, and he pointed out to the Associated Press that mediocre schools that aren’t failing will probably see the biggest changes due to the waivers. In addition, Daniela provided her insights to the Wall Street Journal-Online. Watch the NBC segment below and stay tuned for more commentary and analysis in coming days.
An announcement on education waivers is anticipated this week. Don't expect the reaction to be positive, for it appears that the President and his education secretary will renege on their promise of "flexibility" for the states.
This would be a big change in a short period. Through most of 2011, the Obama Administration reaped accolades for its intention to allow states to take a new course vis-à-vis the Elementary and Secondary Education act (a.k.a. NCLB). In September, the President got wall-to-wall coverage the official announcement of his plan to offer waivers to the states to give them "more flexibility to meet high standards."
Keep in mind, the change we're making is not lowering standards; we're saying we're going to give you more flexibility to meet high standards. We're going to let states, schools and teachers come up with innovative ways to give our children the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the future. Because what works in Rhode Island may not be the same thing that works in Tennessee—but every student should have the same opportunity to learn and grow, no matter what state they live in.
It appears that the President and his education secretary will renege on their promise of flexibility for the states.
Set aside the debate about the conditions he attached to those standards. Set aside the small matter of Constitutionality and separation of powers. On the issue of flexibility itself, virtually everyone seemed to be in agreement (at least in theory): The 10-year-old law is broken and it's time to
Everybody in Washington claims they favor more flexibility in federal education policy. They want to be “tight on results” and “loose on how to get there.” They agree that No Child Left Behind “went too far” in putting Uncle Sam in the middle of complicated and nuanced decisions.
Or so they say, until push comes to shove. And then many of the players discover that they don’t like flexibility after all. They want to change federal policy in theory but not in reality.
It’s not just the President’s bizarre State of the Union request that states raise their compulsory attendance age to 18. (Perhaps that would help to trim the dropout rate, though the studies suggesting so rely on 40-year-old data.) I’m assuming that he was merely using the bully pulpit to promote a pet idea, not suggesting a new federal mandate.
Democrats across and beyond the nation’s capital—in the Administration, on Capitol Hill, in advocacy groups, and in think tanks—are up in arms about the ESEA reauthorization proposals released by House GOP leaders on Friday. Or at least they are pretending to be. While they contained a few surprises, the House bills were pretty much as one would expect: significantly to the right of both the Senate Harkin-Enzi bill and the package put forward by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and his colleagues. In the parlance that we’ve been using at Fordham for three years now, the House GOP embodies the views of the Local Controllers, Senator Alexander embraced Reform Realism, and Harkin-Enzi represents a mishmash of ideas from the Army of the Potomac and the System Defenders.
But while there are significant differences among the players, a clear path toward a workable, maybe even bipartisan, package is still visible. In short: all roads lead to Lamar. Not only does the Alexander package represent smart policy, it also serves as a sort of mid-point between the Senate bill that passed out of committee and the House GOP bill that is likely to do the same. Let’s tackle the five big issues:
for standards and tests. The Administration and the Senate (including
supporters of both the Harkin-Enzi and Alexander measures) want states to adopt
standards that indicate college and career readiness; the House Republicans
don’t. The real issue at stake is not just differing views of big, pushy Uncle
Sam but also the new Common Core standards initiative, and
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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