Let the Games Begin
In case you missed last week's GOP No Child Left Behind Debate the blow-by-blow run down is below:
The crowd was gathered and the boxing ring was set. Warming up in one corner was former U.S. Secretary of Education and the chief architect of the landmark legislation No Child Left Behind, Margaret Spellings. In the other corner swings former Governor of Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of Education and current Senator Lamar Alexander. Refereeing this Republican education match of the decade, and making sense of all the punches was Dr. Chester Finn, President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
The ceremonial “Ding Ding” cues the first question out of Finn and Spellings and Alexander are out swinging on the issues …
There was no audible gasp when Spellings, who authored the legislation, explained why she felt No Child Left Behind’s biggest accomplishment was shining the light on accountability for public education, especially for minority children, throughout the nation. What did turn heads, however, was when Alexander—a critic of the law—seemed to agree. He stated that the law gave future secretaries of education means to go back to states, armed with data, and expect better performance.
Race to the Top:
Both former Secretaries were enticed by the idea of states competing for grant money that is tied to education reform. However Spellings was sure to caution that the lofty promises in order to qualify for competitions like Race to the Top are being made by the same people asking for NCLB state waivers. She recommended waiting to receive the program’s results before calling it successful.
Similarly, neither seemed on board with the administration’s NCLB waiver program, though they each had different reasons. Spellings believes that the waivers are a retreat from accountability, while Alexander feels the waivers have taken authority away from Congress.
The Run Down:
As you may have noticed, the only thing that seems to be missing from yesterday’s debate was an actual debate. The disagreements that existed were more tonal than substantive. As is usually the case, Spellings ended almost every sentence with “accountability,” “assessments,” or “data,” while Alexander’s common refrain was “local control” or “focus on the family.” At the end of the day, they were completely in sync when it came to the big points stating: If education is going to be priority for this country, it needs to be a top line priority for the President.
So, as the Olympics get underway, and the United States’ strongest athletes take center stage, let’s remember the real games have already begun, and they are not being battled in the pool, the track, or even the basketball court. They are being fought in our classrooms and currently, we aren’t just losing by a few points … we are in 17th place. The priority needs to be emphasized now.
Caitlin Codella is Senior Manager of Programs for ICW.