Friday, December 05, 2008

Isn't No Child Left Behind the status quo?

I'll admit I don't get the eager anticipation awaiting Obama's choice for Education Secretary (quick, name the current Education Secretary...sorry time's up), nor do I get the anti-union fetish the choice allows David Brooks and the Wash Post op-ed page to indulge in. Take the Wash Post op-ed (please) for example:

We trust that Mr. Obama was serious when he promised change and will select someone who -- instead of just tinkering with a tired, low-performing system -- will be bold in choosing new directions for American education.

The different education factions of the party -- those pushing for radical restructuring and those more wedded to the status quo -- were each convinced during the campaign that Mr. Obama shared their particular viewpoints. So it is not clear whether Mr. Obama is leaning toward the "disrupters," House education committee chairman George Miller's approving description of the reformers, or the "incrementalists" who are allied with teachers unions.

So the Post writers want Obama to pursue "new directions for American education", a path the editors see as "pushing for radical restructuring" in American schools, which, the editors claim, is the opposite path of those "wedded to the status quo".

But what is the status quo, exactly?


The choice of Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond to head the education policy transition group, along with speculation that she is a candidate for secretary or deputy secretary, is not reassuring to those in the reform movement. Ms. Darling-Hammond has been more critical than supportive of the No Child Left Behind law, dislikes linking teacher pay to test scores and is no fan of Teach for America. It would be a mistake to retreat from the accountability that No Child Left Behind has brought in improving learning and narrowing the achievement gap for minority students. And the next secretary should encourage the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship typified by Teach for America's success in attracting top college graduates to inner-city schools. Indeed, Mr. Obama might want to look to this new generation of educators -- people such as his adviser Jonathan Schnur, chief executive of New Leaders for New Schools, or the Education Trust's Kati Haycock -- in assembling a team equipped to deal with the new realities of education. Nor should opposition from the forces of the status quo scare Mr. Obama away from considering someone such as New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, who has helped improve the nation's largest school system.

Get that? Obama's education transition czar is bad, and anti-reform, say the editors, because she doesn't like No Child Left Behind (among other apparent transgressions). But isn't No Child Left Behind (NCLF for short) what amounts to the current regime of federal education policy, i.e. the status quo?

The Post writers conclude by piously hoping that someone who "is not afraid to break with orthodoxy" and who is "more concerned with results than ideology" is chosen for the all-important post of U.S. Education sec. But isn't an anti-union posture, a posture which has been the stance of most "reformers" for decades now, it's own form of orthodoxy and ideology?

Update: This is pretty funny, and a bit more informative.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That's Mighty White of Them

Responding to prez-elect Obama's nomination of New Mexico guv Bill Richardson to the rather insignificant post of Commerce Sec (can anyone name the current Sec, or the one before that?), a spokesman from God's Own Party can't pass up the opportunity--even amidst the Christmas Holiday season, a celebration of the time when, we're told, God's Own Son was birthed among us two centuries ago--to say something chirlish.

Stay classy, guys.