Obama Gives Bush a 3rd Term in Education
Ohanian Comment: Diane Ravitch has always spoken her mind. Even when I disagree with her, I recognize her as a strong, principled voice. She's fearless. And of late I haven't disagreed with her very much. Here, she gives us a good sound bite label for what is going on at the U. S. Department of Education: Obama Gives Bush a 3rd Term in Education. There's no other way to slice it. I gotta say "I told you so." I posted Obama speeches written by the Center for American Progress. I posted his words from the campaign trail. And now the chickens are coming home to roost. We must stop making excuses, pull our heads out of the sand, and fight.
Tom Vander Ark . . . Well, here is his official bio from twitter.
Tom Vander Ark is a partner in Vander Ark/Ratcliff, an education public affairs firm, and a partner in a private equity fund focused on innovative learning tools and formats. He was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent and was the first Executive Director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
If you can stomach it, you can read his daily blog here.
By Diane Ravitch
The great mystery of education policy today is why the Obama
administration is embracing the Bush program. I recently wrote in
Education Week (June 10) that it is time to kill the Bush-era No Child
Left Behind program. The overwhelming majority of teachers agree with
me. Those who educate our kids know that NCLB is a failed program that
is not improving our schools but rather turning them into test-prep
factories and dumbing down our kids. Bush's main advisor Sandy Kress
reacted with outrage on the website of Education Week, and Tom Vander
Ark on Huffington Post called me an "edu-curmudgeon" for speaking plain
Let me say it again: It is time to kill the Bush-era No Child Left
Behind program. This is a program in which the federal government
requires every state to test every student from grade 3-8 in reading and
math every year. If states do not make "adequate yearly progress"
towards 100% proficiency by 2014, then the schools face a series of
increasingly onerous sanctions, ending with their being closed down.
Vander Ark thinks that this punitive approach to school improvement is
swell. I don't.
If judged solely by test scores, the only coin that the NCLB crowd
understands, the law has been a dud. Kids today are making less progress
on national and international tests than they did during the Clinton
While our kids focus endlessly on preparing to take their state tests in
reading and math, they are not learning science, history, geography,
foreign language, the arts, or anything else but how to find the right
bubble on a standardized test.
A California study in Science magazine predicted that by 2014, nearly
100% of all elementary schools would be deemed failures because of NCLB.
This would unleash a flood of sanctions: closed schools, fired staffs,
public schools handed over to private management (a remedy that has
recently been proved ineffective in Philadelphia, among other places),
and public schools handed over to state control (another ineffective
Now Secretary Arne Duncan promises to close 5,000 low-performing
schools. The thought of closing 5,000 schools thrills today's so-called
"reformers," although none of them has any idea how to make them better.
Where will Duncan find 5,000 new principals? Is there an army of great
teachers waiting to staff those 5,000 schools?
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965--which is the
original law onto which No Child Left Behind was grafted--had none of
these punitive features. It was premised on the belief that the federal
government could help schools by sending more money. In fact, the
federal government never sent much money, never more than 10% of overall
spending, and often much less than that. No one today could visit a
typical inner-city school and complain that its biggest problem was that
it got too much federal money.
But with this leverage, the new mandarins of education want to control
all of American education. For some reason, first the Bush people and
now the Obama people believe they know exactly how to fix American
education. (Chicago, their model, is one of the lowest-performing cities
in the nation on national tests, and Texas was never a national model
for academic excellence.) Their answer starts with testing and ends with
data and more testing. If children were widgets, they might be right;
but children are not widgets, they are individuals. If reading and math
were all that mattered in school, they might be right, but basic skills
are not the be-all and end-all of being educated.
A recent study by Common Core (Why We're Behind: What Top-Performing
Nations Teach Their Students But We Don't) shows that the top-ranking
nations do not spend endless hours preparing for tests of basic skills.
Instead, in nations such as Finland and Japan, there is a balanced
curriculum of science, history, geography, the arts, foreign languages,
civics, and other studies. Meanwhile our children are learning to guess
the right answer on a multiple-choice test!
The amazing thing about American education today is that the Obama
people--who promised revolutionary change--have no ideas other than to
tighten the grip of President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind
program on the teachers and children of the United States.