When Arne Duncan was appointed by Mr. Obama as the Secretary of Education last year, his first call to action was increased spending for public education and overhaul of NCLB.An unprecedented amount of federal funds have been borrowed and printed to funnel to public schools. George W. Bush was the first president to dramatically increase education spending, and he reached across the political aisle and signed Ted Kennedy's No Child Left Behind Act into law. President Bush would never overcome the criticism of his action, along with accusations of failure to fund the Act. In spite of record spending, it apparently was not enough. Colorado public school kids will take their last round of CSAP tests this spring. Administrators are telling their teachers that the dreaded and much maligned CSAP tests will go away. Maybe now teachers, both union and non, will have some other gripe besides having to "teach to the tests". Most teachers had a real problem with being held accountable as to whether or not their students were proficient in basic math and reading. They were forced to give up their own lesson plans and unable to insert their own particular diversity in how they taught and what methods were used. Instead, from the first day of school, they were asked to focus on getting right down to business--teaching the basics so their students would produce good test scores the following spring.
To be fair, the system was indeed flawed in some ways. Older students knew they could deliberately do poorly on the tests if they had a reason to get even with a certain teacher or their school in general. Younger students were under alot of pressure to cram everything they'd learned all year into a couple days of testing. Schools went to great lengths to get students ready to test. Meals and snacks were provided; the promise of recognition and rewards for doing well. Parents were educated on proper sleep required on the nights before tests, balanced with sufficient activity to prevent getting antsy in those testing seats. All of that hassle will go by the wayside now, at least in Colorado.
Secy Duncan came to his national position from being Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools, often considered one of the worst systems in the nation. During his term of service to the City of Chicago, he left behind failed and even closed schools, low graduation rates and his share of poor testing scores under the NCLB system. Some would consider that a failed resume and indictative of a person perhaps not ready to lead the nation's public school districts. An Obama loyalist and insider of Chicago and Illinois politics, Mr. Duncan is now our children's headmaster.
Mr. Duncan began his appointment last year by meeting with the largest national teacher's unions in the country. He commented during an early interview that he had "lived through" the NCLB era under President Bush and as a result, he had a vision of more rigorous academic standards and accountability. As that pertains to Colorado, some might wonder how public school officials are going to be able to monitor progress of students undergoing more rigorous learning if they aren't tested.
The CSAP tests were very expensive for Colorado school districts. Teachers and administrators felt the pressure of government intrusion. Teaching styles and curriculum preferences were shelved in order to teach in such as way as students would perform well, and subsequently, keep funds coming into the schools. The tests are going away now and while all the details are not yet available, apparently under the direction of Arne Duncan, a new day is dawning for public school students in Colorado. Our head of education out of Washington, D.C., brings hope and change, or at least we better hope so, otherwise, our schools may follow the trends of Chicago public schools under his guidance.
Teachers and administrators will almost always tell you what they believe is the answer to solving all problems in public education: we need more money. We've thrown more money at public schools in the last 10 years than ever before in history. Our U.S. Constitution does not even delegate the responsibility of public schools to the federal level, but rather to state governments. Arne Duncan doesn't just want to increase accountability and require more rigorous academic standards, he also wants to overhaul Division I college athletics, and Mr. Obama's "Organizing for America" group is recruiting high school students to volunteer this summer. Required reading for young volunteers includes Saul Alinsky's, "Rules for Radicals". Our First Lady gets into the act by instructing us on what to eat and how much. Apparently, too many parents are too irresponsible to make good food choices for the family table.
Administrators and teachers want more money and less govt. interference. Parents want better grades and more accountability of teachers, including having bad teachers fired. Mr. Obama wants to pacify teacher's unions and he also wants to get those young voters to join his initiatives to reorganize America. Mr. Duncan wants more money, too, along with stricter student requirements and he wants to purge what he believes is a bad system in college basketball and football. Mrs. Obama wants to bring her version of change to school lunches and student exercise initiatives. (Doesn't the Dept. of Agriculture set standards for food served in schools? Is it possible we have yet another govt. agency that maybe isn't doing it's job satisfactorily? Should we perhaps start there and leave American families alone?)
Maybe those that support home schooling and charter schools and choice in education in general have it right after all. Keep government out of the classroom to the extent possible, unless of course, we decide to start teaching American history again that hasn't been revised to suit political agendas.