Hammer time in California

Arnold Schwarzenegger revels in his role as an unconventional politician. How many other Hummer-driving, global warming-fighting Republican governors can you name? Yet his big promises, like those of so many elected officials, can evaporate when the heat rises. Observe how his "Year of Education" was scrapped as California realized it was in a fiscal crisis. But in implementing No Child Left Behind, Schwarzenegger appears to be countering convention yet again. Schools in most states are learning that NCLB's bark is much worse than its bite, so to speak--that the law's stated consequences are far tougher than the actual discipline it metes out and the change that it compels. But according to the AP, California's Gubernator is taking aggressive action to intervene in failing districts. Almost 100 Golden State districts are now subject to "corrective action" because of their low performance--more than twice the number in any other state--and California appears serious about tackling at least the worst of these. As the Wall Street Journal points out about NCLB, "the more-radical restructuring remedies put forth by the law have rarely been adopted...." But at the very time that NCLB is coming in for well deserved criticism for its toothlessness and Schwarzenegger is coming in for criticism for spinelessness, something might be happening in California that goes against both images.

"No Country for Strong Men," by Daniel Weintraub, Education Next, Summer 2008

"School districts start to face sanctions under landmark law," by Juliet Williams, Associated Press, May 10, 2008

"No Child Left Behind Lacks Bite," by Robert Tomsho, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2008