Inside Arne’s Brain — the Latest

by theschoolprincipal on December 2, 2010

I’ve learned that I need to check Alyson Klein and Michele McNeil’s blog, “Politics K-12,” everyday on Yesterday’s post was a guest column by Caralee Adams: “On Duncan’s Mind: Technology, Contracts, and ESEA.”

As Congress moves closer to acting on the reauthorization of NCLB/Blueprint, we all need to stay current with the thinking of the Dept. of Ed’s Wizard of Oz. Remember that after Dorothy finally arrived in the Land of Oz and literally uncovered the Wizard, there was nothing there — no sage advice, no solutions, no know-how.

I’ve consistently accused Arne of not listening to those who work in the trenches. Maybe I’ve been wrong. Caralee Adams’ post quotes Arne as saying that NCLB  ” . . . is too punitive, without enough incentives. The law is also too ‘top down’ and needs to be ‘more flexible,’ to empower governors and states.” According to Allen, Arne also said, “NCLB has led states to lower standards and narrow the curriculum” and “changes should be made to reward excellence in states and districts.” Really, Arne? We’ve been trying to tell you this for how long?

Arne made his comments yesterday at a gathering called the Excellence in Action National Summit on Education Reform. I knew that Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, was involved with getting this meeting organized, but I don’t know who attended or how the delegates were chosen. If you have any information, let me know. UPDATE: this link gives you an idea of who attended and provides additional important information.

Regardless, my stand remains: the federal government is not the vehicle to provide leadership for school reform. Support and direction, yes. Leadership and mandates, no. Finally, ten years later, the federal government (meaning Arne)  is beginning to listen? Not good enough.

Ten years of havoc and disastrous results. The good things once inherent in public education are almost completely dismantled. I can’t imagine the effort it will take to put the pieces back in a coherent way. And that’s if local districts and states are left alone to rebuild. Not that most were  close to being superior before, not that most didn’t need to reform — but most had begun their own local reform — unpublicized — and things were moving ahead. Then came NCLB.

We can’t take a chance on the federal government’s getting it right this time. How many Representatives and Senators really know the issues involved in education? How many are even interested in education as an issue? Not many. They listen to their assistants and to the D.C. think tanks. All of the think tanks, whether right or left, love NCLB. All but two — the Economic Policy Institute and Cato Institute — one toward the left, one on the right. Log on and see what they’re saying about school reform.

Repeat: Do not reauthorize NCLB/Blueprint. Reauthorize ESEA with Title 1 and fund IDEA so that we can keep things moving — but without a lot of intrusion (well, IDEA creates problems — but we can live with them awhile longer). Then let’s hold a Continental Congress with representatives made of educators and parents from every state and D.C. We can get this business of school reform figured out ourselves. To help you think about what meaningful school reform might be, start with the Broader, Bolder Approach — 6 principles to guide reform — posted on the EPI website. These principles were developed to provide guidance to Congress in reauthorizing ESEA. Do you agree with these principles? There’s obviously one that I can’t back because I no longer want Congress at the helm, I no longer agree that Congress and the President should hold all the cards. But am I willing to talk about  it? You bet.

It’s time for those of us in the trenches  to come to consensus on the issue of school reform. It’s time for a written manifesto that gives expression to our beliefs.

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