Friday, August 22, 2014

Another Solution: ESEA

There is, of course, another way out of this.

The tightly wound spring that keeps Race to the Top and waivers (RttR Lite) ticking away is the ESEA. Instead of dealing with the federal mandate-ish sort-of-regulations that have made Common Core and high stakes testing and data collection the kind-of-law of the land, we could address the underlying mess.

The ESEA was first passed in 1965, and periodically is up for "re-authorization" which means the current Congress gets to monkey with it. In 2002, a bipartisan group under George Bush rewrote it into No Child Left Behind. ESEA was due to be re-authorized in 2007, but that ugly step-child of a law was already so toxic that Congress couldn't bring itself to do anything more than sputter and posture. And so ever since, ESEA has been ticking away. (You can get a more complete run-down of the long convoluted mess here.)

Race to the Top and RttT Lite are simply end runs around ESEA, and the only reason anybody bothers to mess with the four federal requirements (CCSS-like standards, high stakes tests, teacher evals linked to HST, and data collection) is because right now, as we sit here, every public school in this country is in violation of NCLB (well, unless you have 100% of your students above average, in which case your school mascot is probably a unicorn).

That is why Washington State schools are being required to send out "We are failure" letters to their parents-- because they lost their waiver because they wouldn't tie teacher evals to test scores, and so now they are back to living under the reality-defying requirements of NCLB.

So we could pull the plug on the whole reformy mess by simply doing what we were supposed to do seven years ago, and re-authorize (and re-write) the ESEA. All it requires is for members of Congress to show their political courage and commitment to properly educating America's children through a public school system. And after they do that, we can all celebrate by riding around on our unicorns. Heck, all we would need if for Congress to do its job and not impose more stupid ed reform rules. How hard could it be?

There is one other possibility, and it could make the next Presidential election interesting. Because the anti-reform Presidential candidate could say, "The Obama waivers are illegal, and the first thing we'll do in office is throw them out." If that happens, Congress would be under tremendous pressure to get on their unicorns and Do Something. Of course, they were under that sort of pressure right up until the point that the waivers were conceived.

This is one huge argument against having the federal government regulate and control public education in this country-- because when they break the system, they break the entire system.

Granted, the re-authorization of the ESEA is a big unicorn hunt. But many of the goals that are proposed, on all sides of the education debates, are unicorn hunts. So let's no overlook the hunt for the biggest, most magical unicorn of all.


  1. One nice thing about having your lawmakers on Twitter (or at least someone on their staffs) is how easy it makes to Tweet this to them. :-)

  2. CrunchyMama, that's an excellent idea. I just tweeted my elected officials. I like this idea so much, I made a list and added my elected officials to that list in case I want to Tweet them again. You rock.

    Thank you, Peter, for writing this blog! You also rock. The statement of purpose in NCLB is what I understand to be the root cause of all misguided reform, and it's logically flawed. NCLB's Statement of Purpose assumes an antecedent, that a standard can work as the measure of learning.

    According to this article, 100% of Senators and 97% of Representatives are on Twitter.

    Here are some quick links if you need to look up your officials.

    Find your House Representatives.

    Find your Senators.

    Let's Tweet!