As I've discussed before, slapping the title No Child Left Behind on the bipartisan Bush-era cluster of reformy claptrap was a bit of a tactical error. But in one respect it was a brilliant positioning of the pre-reform forces.
Most of us remember how it worked at the time. You could point out the pedagogical foolishness that came bundled with NCLB, or you could point out the foolishness of all-stick-no-carrot motivators for schools, or you could point out that not all students were exactly receptive and ready to grab the educational bull by its academic horns, or you could just point out the sheer mathematical impossibility of a system that demanded 100% of students be above average. It didn't matter; eventually you were facing this question:
So, since you don't support NCLB, tell me, exactly which children do you think should be left behind?
Annnnd you were done.
The Current Reformy Academics Program is borrowing a page from that book. It was on display on John King's studentsfirst-packed lovefest in NY, and it's on display in Michelle Rhee's latest heaping helping of deep-fried baloney over at Politico.
What about the poor kids?
The gummint is going to create and enforce these cool equalizing standards, and that will produce educational equality (for the love of God, can we all ALL just stop using the word "equity" incorrectly in all these discussions?). "Those rich kids with their white moms out in the suburbs will get to use these cool standards," the argument goes. "Are you saying you don't want these poor kids to have the same benefits?" The government has ordered funny hats for everyone; why should the uptown kids get funny hats while downtown kids have to wear berets?
It's an elegant argument, because it skips over the whole question of whether CCSS has any benefits at all. It also skips over the efficacy question-- if we buy all schoolboys big burly suits, does that mean they will all grow into them? It plays the race card, sometimes subtly, and sometimes not. And it plays the social status card. And it just generally gets us focused on this political card game when we should be over there playing chess or shuffleboard or some other game having to do with whether the CCSS are any damn good in the first place.
The answer to the poor kids question is already with us, however.
If the CCSS are such a great benefit, why aren't the private schools using them? And if equality is the motivator for reform, why aren't we talking about how to bring the benefits of those elite schools to poor neighborhoods (imagine the feds new program-- Harkness tables for everyone!)?
When the great Current Reformy Academics Program leaders are telling their stories about how much their own children and grandchildren are benefiting from CCSS, then we can talk.