Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Duncan's Law

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced that he will unilaterally override the centerpiece requirement of the No Child Left Behind school accountability law, that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. -- NYT
All of Duncan's Race-To-The-Top stimulus money handouts, his speaking tours with Newt Gingrich, his embrace of T-Party govs like Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels, none of that could buy him the credibility with Congress he needed for re-authorization of No Child Left Behind.

Duncan & Spellings
NCLB is a law that even he now calls a “slow-motion train wreck.” But Duncan has been a vocal supporter of the test-and-punish law since the Bush days, when he, as Chicago schools CEO, journeyed to D.C. to buddy up with then Ed Sec. Spellings. Remember, it was Spellings who declared the law, "99.9% pure" while Duncan cheered her on.

Now embarrassed by the 2014 proficiency mandate and his own projected 82%  national school failure rate, Duncan is taking the law into his own hands. About 38,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools fell short of their test-score targets under the federal law last year, and Duncan has predicted that number would rise to 80,000 this year. That doesn't provide Obama with much of a record to run on in 2012 -- does it?

While maintaining the worst aspects of the law's of test-and-punish provisions and using them to promote massive school closings, teacher firings, and conversion to privately-run charter schools, Duncan is offering waivers to the states based on Jeb Bush's Florida model, which even brother George wouldn't tolerate. While Jeb was governor, many of the state's A or B schools were considered "failing" by NCLB standards. 

Now, instead of junking the Bush-era law Duncan is encouraging every state to apply for a waiver which he personally could approve-- or not. The Duncan waivers would come only if he deemed that a state was following the "reform" guidelines prescribed under Race To The Top, ie. school closings, mass teacher firings, and more charter schools.

The problem for Duncan is that without any more stim money in his pocket and with massive cuts in the education budget anticipated in the wake of the Obama/Boehner debt deal, he has no juice. NCLB is a dead law walking and Duncan's own future is very much in doubt. He has already lost most of his base of support on the left and now the right is opening up on him.

From the Times:
“It sounds like they’re trying to do a backdoor Round 3 of Race to the Top, and that’s astonishing,” said Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. He called Duncan’s plan “a dramatically broad reading of executive authority.”  
Unfortunately, the real victims of all this top-down educational tyranny will be the cash-starved schools themselves operating under confusing federal mandates and a rudderless Dept. of Education.

Pres. Obama, it's time to dump both NCLB and Arne Duncan. 2012 is drawing near.


  1. "Test and punish" - excellent summary catch phrase of what we have endured for several years now. A RISE to an 80 percent failure rate? Why doesn't that point to a flaw in the evaluation process itself? Why are gov't leaders so pig-headed about this?

  2. Hey Squirrel. If any enterprise has an 82% failure rate, fire the boss.

  3. What I don't understand is how converting public schools to charter schools is going to help any of our students. This past year in Florida out of the 30 schools that got an (F) 12 ARE charter schools. WOW! This is unbelievable when there are not as many charter schools as public schools so you do the math.

  4. no person left behind........
    I'm 63 and still learning .... at a metric beyond an increasing rate.... everything via the internet. Why can't technology play a greater role in education? Is it a teacher union issue? There so much to learn on the web....direction must come to structure a path for kids to learn on the web - thereby expanding the possible and reducing costs so that all have an opportunity to learn.

  5. The research is clear on the inefficacy of using standardized tests to determine the fate of schools and teachers. Research is also clear about the many problems with charter schools. Duncan knows this, but is notorious for disregarding research and input from educators and parents. This is because his "reforms" have more to do with pushing a failed, business driven model (deregulation, privatization, union-busting, etc) than it has to do with actually educating children. Race From the Top is a fast motion train wreck!


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.