Obama’s Dreadful Education Agenda

Diane Ravitch’s blog, 9/21/12

The Washington Post has a good article about the aggressive way that the Obama administration has imposed its education agenda in the past three+ years.

The article notes, almost in passing, that there is no evidence for the success of any part of this agenda. No one will know for many years whether the Obama program of testing, accountability, and choice will improve education.

When reading the article, it is easy to forget that the U.S. Department of Education was not created to impose any “reforms” on the nation’s schools. It was created to send federal aid to hard-pressed districts that enrolled many poor children.

When the Department was created in 1980, there were vigorous debates about whether there might one day be federal control of the schools. The proponents of the idea argued that this would never happen. It has not happened until now because Democrats and Republicans agreed that they didn’t want the other party to control the nation’s schools.

But now that the Obama administration has embraced the traditional Republican ideas of competition, choice, testing and accountability, there is no more arguing about federal control. Republicans are quite willing to allow a Democratic administration to push the states to allow more privately managed schools, to impose additional testing, and to crush teachers’ unions.

Republicans would never have gotten away with this agenda at any time in the past three decades. The Democrats who controlled Congress would never have allowed it to happen.

Who would have imagined that it would take a Democratic President to promote privatization, for-profit schools, evaluating teachers by student test scores, and a host of other ideas (like rolling back the hard-won rights of teachers) that used to be only on the GOP wish-list?

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