Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WaPo unwraps Duncan's Chicago legacy

"We're proud to have made significant progress . . . and to really be a model of national reform."--Arne Duncan at his January confirmation hearing

First we had the so-called "Texas Miracle" back in 2000 when Texas Gov. George Bush and then-Houston Supt. Rod Paige rode the myth of zero high school dropouts all the way to the White House. A decade later Chicago Democrats followed suit and created the "Chicago Miracle," the myth of Arne Duncan's 7-year tenure as Mayor Daley's appointed school chief in Chicago. This myth has now been turned into an imposed top-down model for the whole country, including widespread school closings, staff firings, the expansion of privately-managed charter schools, back-to-basics curriculum, heavy reliance on standardized test scores, and mayoral control of the schools.

It took a better-late-than-never New York Times report in 2003 to tear the cover off of the miracle in Texas. Now, a year too late perhaps, Washington Post's Nick Anderson has taken a closer look at Duncan's tenure in Chicago.

Anderson's review of NAEP scores measuring Chicago students' progress over the past 6 years,"signal that Chicago is nowhere near the head of the pack in urban school improvement, even though Duncan often cites the successes of his tenure as he crusades to fix public education."

Anderson goes on to cite studies by the Civic Committee and the Consortium on Chicago School Research which show the Daley/Duncan reform to be "an abysmal failure" and "yielding little or no academic benefits."
Duncan's record is of more than historical interest. He wields considerable power through the combination of his Chicago connections, shared with President Obama, and his oversight of billions of dollars in reform funding.

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