As I read the U.S. secretary of education’s (Arne Duncan) speech from Toronto on Sept. 13, 2010, I was already critiquing it in my mind! Obama and Duncan’s reforms are based on faulty foundational beliefs. They embrace the belief that increasing federal power and funding equals education improvement. Statistics from the 1970s to today prove that false.
They also believe that the continuous improvement (forever learning), outcome and target-based and whole system management methods work best. Thirdly, they opine for educational equity (not opportunity). Duncan glorifies our “progressive” president, the stimulus (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) and Sir Michael Barber during his speech.
The $100 billion of stimulus to education doubled the department’s discretionary budget during this time of debt and frugality. The $3 billion for the lowest performing schools was six times larger than the year before! The ARRA also increased the secretary’s power over the money. They pushed the Common Core Standards which 35 states embraced including Georgia. Taking the stimulus money and the Race to the Top grants was Santa Claus coming to town.
This carrot and stick approach has always worked well. They knew cash-strapped states would succumb. (Even though we are mortgaging more debt for our grandchildren.) Dangle millions, billions, and grants, etc. before the politicians and they will come. Unfortunately, then comes the stick, strings, and the devil of the details! These changes will “transform” and “improve educational outcomes” with a “cradle to grave” agenda according to Duncan. He certainly knows the global language! I didn’t know that the infants nor elderly would be required to be lifelong learners!
These states, in exchange, agreed to change their academic standards, develop assessments (measuring value) instead of true achievement, measure “higher order” thinking (check Bloom’s affective taxonomy), change their computer and data systems, improve preparation and professional development of teachers (teachers: brace for more in-service indoctrination) which may tie performance to pay, and lastly to commit to the lowest-achieving schools. The federal government is here and ready to help you! Their support of socialist charter schools is well-known.
Duncan talked glowingly about Sir Michael Barber, head of McKinsey’s Global Education Practice, from the UK. The “deliverology” management theme of his book, “Instruction to Deliver,” failed in the UK. Services worsened and costs increased due to the target-system approach. Like the “Texas Miracle,” statistics of success were questionable.
Duncan looked high and low globally to change our schools from Paris, to Ontario, and the UK. He forgot that local education is none of his business. He admitted that “education is largely administered by and funded by local governments.” Maybe not now with the stimulus interfering in every aspect of education. Most of us know that more resources do not mean better service. Most of us know that management-style fads do not work well from top down. Also, we know that redistribution of wealth nor educational equity inspire excellence. I wish the elite who desire to have power over others would have the same common sense of the common man. I also wish someone would tell me how to get this Trojan horse back out of the room!
Leigh Anne Bjerregaard