Before proceeding, it may be helpful to do a quick recap of the K policy highlights of the Bush and Obama years.
By using Race to the Top funding as an incentive and, later, by offering conditional waivers that freed states from some of the more painful strictures of NCLB , the Obama administration shifted the direction of existing reform efforts. At least a couple of the positive consequences that followed from all this were, as Bob Ross would say, happy accidents. Most notable was the development of an extensive data infrastructure capable of collecting and managing the vast amounts of information required to pursue the new approaches to school accountability and teacher evaluation.
Whatever the future of those two reform strategies, this infrastructure will enable new generations of researchers and policy makers to evaluate programs and analyze the teaching workforce in ways that once seemed impossible. Just two decades ago, it was difficult to determine whether an intervention designed to boost reading or math performance actually did so.
Testing was irregular, little information was systematically collected on student outcomes, and research and evaluation reflected that state of affairs.
Full text of Obama’s education speech – The Denver Post
As more states and districts experiment with pedagogy, school design, school choice, classroom technology, and more, the state testing data make it possible to focus systematically on outcomes at least when it comes to reading and math performance. Prior to NCLB, such analysis simply was not possible in most states. And in seeking to come up with better ways to evaluate teachers, states and districts developed sophisticated metrics, rubrics, and evaluation tools that can deepen our understanding of what distinguishes good instruction.
Ironically, these tools even made it possible to recognize that the new evaluation systems failed to deliver on the goal of providing accurate and actionable information for every teacher. Thus, while these efforts to strengthen teacher quality and accountability did not work as intended, they may still generate important benefits for the field.
House of Representatives and the U. Senate At a time when both chambers were intensely polarized and a bitter presidential election loomed, this kind of bipartisan agreement on a major piece of legislation was striking. While these efforts to strengthen teacher quality and accountability did not work as intended, they may still generate important benefits for the field. The law that resulted was a funny compromise — it held the promise of keeping the core components of the transparency that marked the Bush-Obama years, while rejecting many of the excesses that had been grafted onto NCLB.
It required states to collect, disaggregate, and report performance data. It required states to identify troubled schools and do something about them. But it backed away from the presumption that Washington should drive what these efforts look like. In short, what resulted from 15 years of stumbling and sniping was something that looked a lot like a principled, sensible compromise, reflecting concerns that had long been widespread among both Republicans and Democrats but which had been steamrolled by ebullience and enthusiasm when NCLB was first written.
This bipartisanship was, in effect, another happy accident: Overly ambitious efforts by well-meaning officials fueled a backlash. While the reforms of the Bush-Obama years resulted in some happy accidents, they also featured accidental outcomes that were far less fortuitous, such as encouraging educators to subvert their testing and accountability systems and provoking hostility to the Common Core.
Bush- and Obama-era supporters of test-based accountability dramatically underestimated how difficult it would be to make these systems work and how tempting it would be for schools, districts, and states to subvert them. In , the PDK poll reported that two-thirds of Americans favored having all 50 states administer the same standardized achievement tests.
And in fact, after the standards were finalized in , they were quickly adopted by more than 40 states. What happened?
There were a slew of unintended consequences related to how the standards were adopted typically by state boards of education, with little public input , redefined as a quasi-federal initiative when the Obama administration offered enthusiastic support via Race to the Top and its waivers from No Child Left Behind , and implemented.
Today, most states still have the Common Core standards or something similar in place; however, thanks to the public backlash against the initiative, its advocates have been frustrated on many of the larger shifts they envisioned.
A surfeit of energetic, impassioned support actually wound up compromising and politicizing the Common Core, and limiting its impact. Talk about your unhappy accidents. There is much to be learned from the unintended consequences — good and bad — of the Bush-Obama years. The American educational system is sprawling, diverse, and complex. It sits within a political system that itself is sprawling, diverse, and complex. In turn, that system sits within an American culture that is also sprawling, diverse, and complex.
These are not design flaws. They represent — for good and bad — the true face of American democracy after more than two centuries of evolution. Our pride, stubbornness, and anguish over sunk costs can cause us to overlook promising developments. Most of us had to agree to disagree on the most central points of educational politics. Of course, Obama has preached the importance of investing in education throughout his professional career. Whereas students have not had access to the same educational pathway across the board, lower achievement outcomes readily accepted among disadvantaged students, Obama has promoted education equity and held all children to the same high standards.
In a bid to achieve educational equality, Obama has implemented a number of education reform initiatives as follows:. Race to the Top. In education reform, Obama started his presidency with a proverbial bang. At least, this is how it works in theory.
Critics of Race to the Top argue that its emphasis on high-stakes testing is untrustworthy — and I am inclined to agree. Generally speaking, though, the. Race to the Top initiative has raised standards for learning and emphasized college and career readiness. Each year, the program gives even more in federal funding to states that prepare plans for reforming their student offerings. The states granted the funds represent 42 percent of all low-income students in the nation, too, making the initiative an effective way to close the achievement gap and equalize funding in areas where schools may struggle based on their geographical location.
Promise Neighborhoods. In , President Obama another important educational initiative known as the Promise Neighborhood Grants The Promise Neighborhoods Grants supported cradle-to-career services intended to improve the educational attainment and healthy development of children. The program aims to provide students in Promise Neighborhoods with access to effective schools and well-built networks of parental and community support, preparing them to receive an exceptional education and effectively transition to college and a career.
If they make their payments on time, public servants teachers, police officers, servicemen, etc. Also, the president increased funding for land-grant colleges.
The aforementioned measures constituted the largest reform of student aid in 40 years. Since his inauguration, President Obama and Arne Duncan aggressively tackled education reform in P education. What President Obama and Arne Duncan have been able to accomplish in less than four years is nothing short of amazing. There is room for improvement, especially when students are still tested using antiquated assessment measures.
Michelle Obama Takes First Steps Into the World of Education Policy
More importantly than this, NCLB still exists in its original state and has not been amended. Although we have many more miles to go, we have to remember that Rome was not built in a day. The issues that continuously plague our public education system took decades to get that way and will probably take several more decades to fix.
If President Obama is to engender true school reform in America, he has to bear in mind that school reform is a unicorn of sorts — an imaginary, magical creature conjured up by our subconscious desire to make sense of things. The truth of the matter is that school reform, as most people envision it, does not exist. President Obama knows that you do not need to wait for something to be broken in order to fix it. He has brilliantly applied the process of continuous improvement to our educational system; constantly striving to make things better, reevaluating how he does things, looking at the results he achieves, and taking steps to improve things incrementally.
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