Education Gadfly Weekly
Volume 11, Number 23
June 16, 2011
Opinion + Analysis
Good for Texas. Good for America?
Some education ideas are best left in Austin
Waivers are one thing; mandates are another
Reform is in the eye of the beholder
Takeaways from SB7
The Nation???s Report Card: History 2010
Mostly depressing news from the NAEP
Can NCLB Choice Work? Modeling the Effects of Interdistrict Choice on Student Access to Higher Performing Schools
Tune up those school buses; we?re going for a ride
Teacher Quality Roadmap: Improving Policies and Practices in LAUSD
The only question is: Where to start?
Constitution What Constitution
Mike and Rick are el fuego this week, blasting Duncan?s new reform proposal, districts? cost-cutting concerns, and over-hyped edu-entrepreneurs. Amber breaks down NAEP history results and Chris dares to question D.A.R.E.
Chester E. Finn, Jr. / June 16, 2011
Deep in the heart of Texas is where some education-policy lessons might best stay.
But they tend not to. Rick Perry’s seemingly imminent entry into the 2012 GOP race suggests that, for the second time in less than a dozen years, we could very well see an ardent effort by a Texas governor to make the federal role in education conform to his own preconceptions and to lessons drawn from his experience in Austin.
That’s what happened in 2001 when Governor George W. Bush carried with him from Texas the essential elements of policy and practice that (after much fiddling by Congress) became the No Child Left Behind Act.
And that’s what could happen again in 2013 should Perry win the Oval Office and endeavor there to magnify and replay the conclusions he has reached about education during his dozen years running the Lone Star State.
Besides (and partly due to) its enormity, Texas is a proud, sometimes arrogant, and seriously self-absorbed place. One need only stand under the immense dome of the state capitol—taller than the one in Washington—and gaze at the six flags depicted in the terrazzo floor. All have flown over Texas. One senses that its current affiliation with the United States is a sort of dalliance that could one day end.
So it’s no surprise that Texas governors can be a bit cocky. Bush
Michael J. Petrilli / June 16, 2011
Much like Commodus of ancient Rome (portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator), Arne Duncan is letting out his frustrations with Congress’s inaction over ESEA reauthorization (currently known as NCLB)—and nobody seems to like it. His warning to Congress that he will take matters into his own hands via waivers has drawn large-scale ire.
Here’s my take. First, the Secretary deserves credit for doing something to encourage ESEA reauthorization (beyond issuing groveling press releases and pleading statements). Congress is dithering and to date no amount of pressure—Presidential or otherwise—has made a difference. The Republicans in the House at least have some reasonable excuses—with all those new members still getting up to speed, and the tricky politics of the Tea Party. But Senator Harkin should be ashamed (though he doesn’t appear to be); Easter is long past and still we have no bill from his committee. It would be great to think that Duncan’s threat will finally be the jumpstart he needs to get his act together.
Second, as Rick Hess has pointed out, Duncan’s plans to tie regulatory relief to new requirements indicates an incredible amount of hubris, not to mention Constitutional ignorance. Yes, under NCLB’s waiver authority, the Secretary has a lot of room to maneuver in terms of letting states and districts escape from onerous parts of the law. But not a single provision or authority
June 16, 2011
Several lessons can be distilled from the nearly unanimous passage of Illinois’s widely noticed education-reform legislation, SB7. Notably: Money matters, and reform is in the eye of the beholder. To clear the lane for SB7—lauded by many (including Arne Duncan) as a slam dunk for both reformers and the notion of “collaboration”—Stand for Children went straight to the wealthy in the Land of Lincoln, and leaned on them hard. In just over three months, the organization pulled in about $3.5 million in political contributions—money they used to finance key campaigns and to hire over a dozen lobbyists. Money matters (and so do the political connections that go with it); the unions saw the writing on the wall and decided to play ball. While Stand celebrates the passage of SB7 (which Governor Pat Quinn signed into law on Monday), some other reformers remain skeptical. Most notably, Ron Tupa of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) worries about loopholes in the measure that might nullify its most significant provisions. The teacher-evaluation provisions in SB7 “are not required to be enacted if funding is not forthcoming,” for example. Still, from our perspective, SB7 really does move the ball forward, and Stand deserves our respect (as does Advance Illinois, the other key player in all of this). The education-reform movement is quickly moving past the days when it fought brute political strength only with white papers and op-eds. Three cheers for this new brand of advocacy.
“New force in Illinois quickly pushes state toward school reform,” by Ray Long, Chicago Tribune, June 11, 2011.
Daniela Fairchild / June 16, 2011
Gadfly’s voice is hoarse from proclamations that history education is being tossed aside in the NCLB-fueled fervor over reading and math. But this week brings no relief for his vocal cords. Instead, it brought release of the 2010 Nation’s Report Card for U.S. history, and the statistics are scream-worthy, if unsurprising. Proficiency rates in history come in at 20 percent or less in fourth, eighth, and twelfth grades—far lower than for any other subject NAEP assesses. While a few positive data points can be gleaned (since 1994, blacks and Hispanics have significantly narrowed the achievement gap, for example), the overall results still remind us of the serious shortcomings in how we approach history education in this land. In the vast majority of states, history standards are pitiable and incentives to take this subject seriously are nonexistent. (While all states are federally mandated to test ELA and math, only eight assess history or social studies at both the elementary and secondary levels.) But please don’t shoot or even pooh-pooh the messenger, for the NAEP history assessment is a fair gauge based on an excellent framework that is serious about real historical content and reasoning. (That’s what our reviewers found recently.)
|Click to listen to commentary on the NAEP history results from the Education Gadfly Show podcast