I should have known better. While I admire Obama’s ability to communicate with the public (especially as compared to his predecessor), I’m not sure whom he is listening to. I keep being disappointed that we seem to be getting more of the same, particularly when it comes to education policy. While Obama promised that he would not judge students, teachers, and schools only on test-scores, so far we haven’t seen anything different. And where the Bush administration pushed for the privatization of pubic schools, especially as charter schools, the Obama administration has used the fiscal emergency and executive discretionary funds to bludgeon states into expanding the number of charter schools.
Of course, as soon as Obama chose Arne Duncan as the Secretary of Education, I feared the worst. As I explained in chapter six of my book, High-Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education, as the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan implemented Renaissance 2010, which sought to shift control over the public schools away from parents and the public, and towards the corporate elite. And first as CEO and now as Secretary of Education, Duncan has falsely claimed that schools have improved when, in most cases, schools’ test scores improved because they were able to enroll more middle-class students and the tests have become easier.
Diane Ravitch, who until recently was a strong supporter of high-stakes testing and No Child Left Behind, now realizes that Bush’s and Obama’s reforms have lowered standards and diminished learning. What is astonishing about Ravitch’s critique is not only the ferocity of it, but the disappointment given that she was initially a staunch advocate of more standardized exams and in an interview on Only a Teacher, a video I show in class, criticizes schools like the Urban Academy in New York City and the School Without Walls in Rochester for their resistance to requiring for graduation passing the Regents exams. Ravitch’s views can be accessed in Education Week (“Time to Kill ‘No Child Left Behind’” in the June 10th issue) and the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diane-ravitch/obamas-awful-education-pl_b_266412.html.