Too Federal To Succeed

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

With depressing regularity, ever since the Reagan Administration looked at American public schools and found A Nation At Risk, every president who succeeded the Gipper has made education even riskier.

What they all did was to increase the federal role in education when local heroes were doing a better job. Think “No Child Left Behind (NCLB)” vs. Michelle Rhee.

Now it’s Barack Obama’s turn at bat and we are looking at more expensive strikeouts. “More recently, in fall 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it would offer NCLB waivers to states that agreed to conditions stipulated by the Department of Education,” Lindsay M. Burke of the Heritage Foundation notes, based on remarks by the Secretary of Education. “States applying for a waiver must adopt ‘college- and career-ready standards’ in math and ELA [English Language Arts] that are ‘common to a significant number of states’ or have been ‘certified by a state network of institutions of higher education.’”

“The Common Core Math standards want algebra by grade 9,” John Stergios of the Boston-based Pioneer Institute pointed out in an April 17, 2012 appearance with Burke at Heritage. “We already have it by eighth grade.”

“Race to the Top also required states to join one of two testing consortia crafting assessments that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative” Burke explains. “More than $350 million of Race to the Top was earmarked for the funding of national assessments in math and ELA. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated that the Common Core standards and assessments ‘will help put an end to the insidious practice of establishing 50 different goalposts for educational success.’”

“They’re teaching congruent triangles in a way that has never been taught successfully,” Williamson Evers of The Hoover Institution claimed in the symposium over which Burke presided. Perhaps, but it may not be legal either.

“Three laws prohibit the U. S. Department of Education from developing a national curriculum,” Washington, D. C. attorney Kent Talbert noted at the Heritage event. Moreover, “the conditions for NCLB waivers—committing to adopting national standards, accountability and assessment of students, evaluation of teachers and freedom from reporting requirements—are not in the original law.” Talbert served as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education from 2006-2009, which puts him in a good position to understand such statutes.

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

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