Sleeping with Arne: Promiscuity and the Battle for Education Policy


After seemingly endless weeks of speculation Obama made a safe choice for Ed Secty,  his home boy, Arne Duncan.
Praise of the Duncan selection moves across the education policy spectrum ,  from Rhee and Klein and the “ed reformers,” to Randi Weingarten, virtually the entire range of “players” on the national education scene. The only criticism seems to come from within Chicago, from Pure Parents, a well respected parent advocacy coalition and Alexander Russo, a frequent commenter at This Week in Education.
After the lovefest we may face that period of postcoidal depression. The “big thing” will be the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, if they keep the title it remains a Bush legacy, so, the contest begins: the new name for the law. And, oh, yes, that content thing …
1. Moving from proficiency to growth: the “easy” part of the reauthorization will be moving to a growth model, especially since the current Bush Ed Department has approved models in a number of states. The New York State application is pending.
2. How will the new law deal with targets and sanctions? This is the core issue that States have resisted, no matter how you measure, progress or growth, what happens when a school simply does not meet targets? Give them more money, or, close the school? Or, some creative new, yet undiscussed option?
3. Will the Barack/Arne team move toward national standards, a national curriculum and an agreed definition of graduation rates? The graduation rate definition is already in progress, driven by a Gates initiative. The discussion of nation standards, etc., inevitably results into the “do we need a national exam” debate … a rather toxic discussion ….
4. Will Arne want to touch the merit pay and the “value added” morass? We are moving closer to be able to measure the impact of individual teachers on student achievement … do we reward highly effective teachers with a bonus? do we use the data in the evaluation of teachers? in the dismissal of teachers?
5. Arne signed both the major agendas, the Broader, Bolder and the Educational Equality, how will he respond to the core values embedded in each of the agendas?
I suspect Arne will spend the first months logging frequent flyer miles … flitting from city to city shaking hands and setting the stage for whatever …
If Arne wants to move from one night stands to stable relationships he’ll have to address all those “major” issues … or, maybe, he likes those one night stands and will steer clear of content as Barack grapples with world peace and avoiding the economic abyss.

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