Dear Commons Community,
Despite repeated efforts over the last five years, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Act, the law that governs all public schools that receive federal financing. The No Child version, passed in 2001, provoked controversy by holding schools responsible for student performance on standardized tests, dubbing schools that do not meet targets failures and requiring strict interventions like the replacement of a school’s entire teaching staff.
Since early last year, the Obama administration has granted waivers to 34 states and the District of Columbia, relieving them from what many argued was the law’s most unrealistic goal: making all students proficient in math and reading by 2014. In exchange, the administration has demanded that the states raise curriculum standards and develop rigorous teacher evaluations tied in part to student performance on standardized tests.
Critics have argued that the Obama administration has been too prescriptive in these waiver requirements, and that a new education law should leave most decisions about schooling up to states and districts.
“At a Senate education committee hearing on Thursday to discuss waivers to states on some provisions of the law, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, forcefully urged the federal government to get out of the way.
“We only give you 10 percent of your money,” said Mr. Alexander, pressing John B. King Jr., the education commissioner for New York State. “Why do I have to come from the mountains of Tennessee to tell New York that’s good for you?”
Dr. King argued that the federal government needed to set “a few clear, bright-line parameters” to protect students, especially vulnerable groups among the poor, minorities and the disabled.
“It’s important to set the right floor around accountability,” Dr. King said.”
I fully support Senator Alexander’s position. One size does not fit all and I would trust those closest to our schools and education systems to make the right decisions. The federal government including the US Department of Education is driven strictly by politics and has done more harm than good regarding education policy and practice.