Arne Duncan: All Sticks, No Carrots

arne-duncanHere is a little blurb on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in “The Washington Flyer” a weekly email sent out by the American Association of Christian Schools that I thought was interesting.

Education Secretary Loses Leverage in Second Term
As Congressional gridlock continues throughout the second term of the Obama Administration, education analysts question whether Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has many opportunities through which to advance the Department’s goals. During the first term, the DOE was given billions of dollars in discretionary funding through the stimulus that was used to establish the President’s signature education program, Race to the Top (RTT). The Race to the Top program, a competitive grant program, was administered in several phases and included both an assessment development and early learning component. Estimates suggest that under his supervision the DOE has awarded nearly $100 billion in incentive funding to states and local districts. Michele McNeil, Education Week writer, contends that the Secretary has two primary tools left to advance his remaining priorities: “the bully pulpit and enforcement sticks.” States are struggling to fulfill their commitments to implement the Common Core Standards and to administer the aligned assessments. Additionally in order to keep No Child Left Behind (NCLB) conditional waivers, schools must craft teacher evaluations linked to student achievement scores and develop school ratings systems. Several states have been warned that their NCLB grants are on “high risk status” and some school districts have been cautioned that portions of their RTT awards may be revoked by the Department if certain issues are not adequately addressed. Louisiana Superintendent of Education, John White, stated that federal intervention in his state’s teacher observation policies “erodes” trust and that the department should “resist the federal impulse to constantly layer on more regulation and process.” To view the second-term agenda, click here.

Yes states jumped at the chance of getting No Child Left Behind Waivers in order to “lessen Federal regulations” in return they had to agree to adopt Common Core and other reforms.  The thing many of these states were not telling you is that these waivers had an end date.  Now if you want an extension you have to agree to even more reforms.

For instance “schools must craft teacher evaluations linked to student achievement scores and develop school ratings systems.”  I know it sounds like it would be an objective measure for teacher evaluations, but those pushing for this don’t (or maybe they are considering) what the natural byproduct of such a move in addition to developing school rating systems.  This will even further entrench a “teaching to the test” culture in our schools.  We’ll also see curriculum, learning materials and such be dictated by Common Core Assessments.

Just content standards huh?  You could say that perhaps without the assessments and reforms like what I mentioned above.  Those of us who oppose the Common Core look at all of this as one big package.  Those who advocate for the Common Core want to compartmentalize the standards, the assessments, costs and teacher evaluations and get you focused on their talking points.

We can’t afford to do that.