“The Last Laugh Belongs to Bush”

by Robert Pondiscio
January 15th, 2009

School accountability driven by disaggregated data is “not just George W. Bush’s education legacy; it’s the jewel of any domestic achievement,” writes Richard Whitmire on Politico.  The president of the National Education Writers Association says finding shortcomings in the law is not difficult, but he dismisses the idea that the new administration will eviscerate No Child Left Behind.

The notion that Obama would gut a law exposing the maleducation of millions of black children is a fantasy. That’s why Democrats won’t break NCLB. They’ll start by changing the name of the law, ridding its association with the much-despised Bush. But the last laugh belongs to Bush, because his Texas-style accountability will survive. And that’s what makes No Child Left Behind, regardless of any name change, Bush’s lasting legacy.


  1. That’s why neither Democrats nor unions will break NCLB. It would be social policy blasphemy to even consider complete abolition of this federal law, and rightfully so.

    We’re never going to get to one hundred percent proficiency by 2014, or 3014 for that matter, but does that mean we stop trying? I DON’T THINK SO.

    And the testing – all the bloody testing – somehow that has to be reigned in to a manageable, practical level.

    The sanctions have to be eliminated – COMPLETELY. We need to replace these sticks with obtainable carrots, customized to each school and district.

    Paramount to reauthorization of the law, however, is national standards. National standards would establish what needs to be taught in each subject, at each grade level. Use the Core Knowledge model or use what Massachusetts has developed, or even some combination of the two. This developed set of academic standards would minimize/eliminate redundancies as well as define a pragmatic/transparent order for all to examine and eventually follow.

    It could be developed by representatives from the 50 state DOEs on a committee coming to consensus as to what would be necessary in each subject at each grade level. Kids from Juneau, Alaska to Jupiter, Florida would have access to one common body of knowledge. This needs to get done.

    It’s time the US went from fifty different plans (some comprehensive, others anemic) to one common set of national standards to ensure every child throughout the country has access to a comprehensive, challenging body of knowledge.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — January 15, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  2. Whitmire has it backwards, and I think it comes from his perspective as an observer, albeit a close one, as opposed to a teacher. (His counter arguments against teachers who oppose NCLB-type accountability, for instance, reveal a decidely middle class bias which is strange for a law that was supposed to help the poor.) Whitmire, like teachers, expected a half-hearted implementation of NCLB accountability. He is pleased that Bush, and others, really believed, and really tried to enforce the law. He doesn’t understand, however, that it was the sincerity of the true believers that caused the damage. They were so convinced that they were right, that they actually enforced the accountability provisions!!??!? Who would have thunk that?

    Had we gone through the same old hyprocritical processes and pretended to implement data-driven accountability, the accountability portion of the law would have done less harm and all of the new spending would have brought incremental improvements.

    Under Obama, I see two basic options. The best would be to implement the Diane Ravitch proposal. (Paul Hoss and I disagree about everything else, but if I read his post correctly he is essentially adopting the Ravitch proposal.) Even if Schur, Feinburg, Levin et. al win the debate, I don’t see them continuing the sucidial approach approach of the last seven years. If incremental improvements in AYP models reduce the harm of NCLB-type accountability, then we will have a whole new equation. And someday – way over the rainbow – I could see how data-driven accountability could get refined to the point where it does more good than harm. I don’t see that happening for another generation, at least.

    Comment by john thompson — January 15, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  3. John,

    I don’t disagree with you on everything. I ceertainly agree with your belief in CK and much of what is associated with it. In addition, as I posted on edwonkette (I think) within the past month, I believe all inner-city teachers are heroes and should be paid at least twice as much as the rest of the us wimp swho wound up in safer/saner environs.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — January 15, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  4. Can we start a movement for the Diane Ravitch proposal?

    Her Op-Ed in the NY Times a year-plus ago was an “ah ha” moment for me — and I suspect for many others.

    Comment by Rachel — January 16, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

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