by Diane Ravitch, 10/5/14
Arne Duncan issued waivers to 43 states to allow them to avoid the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Law, passed in 2001, signed into law in January 2002. NCLB is an utter disaster, recognized as such by everyone except the people who had a direct hand in writing it. It requires that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 must be “proficient” on state tests of reading and mathematics or the school will face dire consequences.
In no nation in the world are 100% of all children proficient in reading and math. Congress’s mandate was a cruel joke on the nation’s public schools.
In order to get Duncan’s waiver, states had to agree to Duncan’s terms. One of them was that the state had to create a teacher evaluation system based on test scores. Washington State initially agreed, but as the research accumulated showing that this strategy was not working anywhere, the legislature refused to pass such a system.
Duncan revoked the waiver he had in his lordly manner extended. Now almost every school in the state is a failing school and must spent at least 20% of their federal funding on private tutoring or allow students to transfer to “non-failing” schools, if they can find one.
This article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times shows the ugly consequences of Duncan’s policies have been on the public schools of Washington State. Schools that have shown dramatic improvement in recent years are now declared failures. Duncan says the state must suffer the consequences of its failure to follow his orders.
This man is not fit to be Secretary of Education. He is a promoter of privatization and high-stakes testing. His period in office has been marked by massive demoralization of teachers and educational stagnation (his own term). From his actions, it appears that he doesn’t care for public education and hopes it will be replaced by privately managed charters and vouchers. His action in this case has caused harm to the students and teachers of Washington State. The headline of the article says he put schools “in a bind.” It would be more accurate to say that Duncan has rained chaos on the schools and children of Washington State. The sooner he is out of office, the sooner we can turn to realistic ways of helping children and schools.