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NCLB Outrages

Mr. Duncan and That $4.3 Billion

Ohanian Comment: One might be tempted to borrow from Shakespeare's King Henry VI, who wrote and is often quoted, "The first thing we must do is kill all the lawyers" and say "First, kill all the editorial writers." Only the rest of Shakespeare's quote turns it around to be in defense of lawyers, saying that killing them is "the surest way to chaos and tyranny even then was to remove the guardians of independent thinking."

Well, surely no one would call New York Times education editorial writer Brent Staples guilty of independent thinking.

I complained bitterly to the editorial board and was assured in a personal e-mail from the then-editor in charge of the editorial page that the board agrees with him, that, after all, some of their best friends are teachers.


As for this piece of flotsam: AGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I'd like to see every teacher and every parent of a schoolchild in the country to write the New York Times protesting the ignorance revealed here.


With sound ideas and a commitment to rigorously monitor the states̢۪ progress, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has revitalized the school-reform effort that had lost most of its momentum by the closing days of the Bush administration.

His power to press for reforms was dramatically enhanced earlier this year when Congress gave him control of $4.3 billion in grant money — the Race to the Top fund — that is to be disbursed to the states on a competitive basis. Mr. Duncan will need to resist political pressure and special pleadings and reward only the states that are committed to effective and clearly measurable reform.

Mr. Duncan̢۪s exhortations, and the promise of so much cash, have already persuaded eight states to adopt measures favorable to charter schools, which Mr. Duncan rightly sees as crucial in the fight to turn around failing schools.

To be eligible for the money, every state must also show how student performance will be factored into their systems for evaluating teachers. And Mr. Duncan has asked the states to come up with plausible plans to turn around failing schools — so-called dropout factories — and to better serve minority students.

He has also made clear in preliminary guidelines released earlier this year that his system for evaluating the states’ reform efforts will be rigorous — and that financing can be revoked if states renege on their promises. Even the National Education Association, the aggressively hidebound teachers’ union, seems to understand that the time for defending the status quo has passed.

For all that, the difficult part is yet to come. Mr. Duncan must be prepared to reject grant applications that do not meet the eligibility requirements, but he also must be willing to encourage states to innovate.

As he decides which applications to accept and which to reject, Mr. Duncan can expect a lot of outside pressure from politicians demanding that he finance all of their states̢۪ programs and from community purists demanding that he reject projects that don̢۪t comply with their views.

He will need to resist those pressures and choose substantive, innovative proposals that stand the best chance of improving the schools. For that, he will need courage, stamina and cover from the White House.

— Brent Staples
New York Times


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