K-12 Reformers Need to stare in the Mirror after 251-178

July 9, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Perhaps it can be delayed until after the reauth drama has reached a conclusion, and by no means to I wish to exonerate members of the House, but there is a very real need for K-12 reformers to look at themselves in the mirror and ask “how did we lose a bipartisan super-majority that favored academic transparency in the United States House?”

It’s been clear to me that the transparency consensus has been collapsing since at least 2013.  Even now, many in Washington seemed not to have noticed, and continue to carry supporting poorly considered technocratic tweaks to NCLB as if the consensus still exists.

251-178 folks-it’s gone.  How it was lost is certainly complex and I am not in a position to render definitive judgement. I’m calling it though that the canary just died in the coal mine.

To me there has never been a stronger case made for reducing the federal footprint in K-12 than yesterday’s vote. Yesterday the United State House of Representatives voted in overwhelming fashion to mandate the gathering and collection of student testing data that would be of absolutely no value whatsoever- would compromise the ability of parents to compare schools in a reliable fashion, would never withstand challenge in a legal proceeding like Vegara etc. Both past experience and simple logic would lead one to the conclusion that creating a federal parental opt-out for state testing systems will create a powerful incentive for school officials to nudge low-performing students (read: Black, brown, children with disabilities) out of standardized testing to improve their scores. They managed to do this in an attempt to reauthorize an important piece of legislation 8 years behind schedule. I don’t know about you but if this is the best we can get out of our alleged federal Olympians color me more ready than ever to take my chances with state legislatures.

But I digress. If reformers want there to be a consensus on transparency, we apparently need to rethink our efforts. What we are doing now obviously is not working.

T. Willard Fair: Save NCLB Private Tutoring

November 11, 2010

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

T. Willard Fair, Chairman of the Florida State Board of Education calls for Congress to maintain the private tutoring provision of NCLB in the Miami Herald. Fair writes:

With scores of funding opportunities for schools and districts targeting myriad programs, this is one of the few federal programs that go directly to individual parents to help provide specific and targeted academic assistance. Selecting from a list of screened providers from across the spectrum, from community groups and other nonprofit groups to companies that provide these tutoring opportunities to more-affluent families, under this program parents can take control of their children’s education to help them get the tools they need to succeed.

Florida has led the nation in creating a system to hold these providers accountable and ensure results.

And parents have been choosing. In Florida alone, nearly 80,000 low income students took part in this tutoring program during the 2008/09 school year.

Given Florida’s leadership in K-12 reform, I am not surprised to see that they managed to make something of the private tutoring NCLB program, and I agree the program should be maintained. Some serious thought should be given however as to how the program could be made easier for parents to access. The tutoring program unwisely relies upon school districts for implementation with predictably disappointing results in most places.

Why not emulate Florida’s accountability system, and cut districts out as the middle man? There has to be a better model than expecting McDonalds to hand out vouchers to buy milk shakes from Wendy’s or Burger King.