Education Secretary Arne Duncan has only a few days left before his official exit on Dec. 31. Though his designated successor, John King, the former education commissioner of New York State, will have about a year in the job, the education legacy from this administration will be President Obama’s and Duncan’s.
Mark Naison, a professor of African American studies and history at Fordham University and director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program, offers the following nine questions that need to be answered when the full accounting of the Obama administration’s education reform efforts is written. These appeared on Naison’s blog, and I am publishing them with permission.
Naison writes that Obama’s Race to the Top — his chief education initiative, which rewarded federal funds to states that promised to enact specific reforms that became extremely controversial — was created with hopes of achieving great equity. But there was enormous collateral damage, Naison says, and that damage “may have well exceeded the gains.” Other critics argue that there were no real gains and that the Obama-Duncan reforms wound up leaving feeling teachers demonized, public education increasingly privatized and the achievement gap still wide.
Here are Naison’s questions:
*How many schools were closed?
*How many great teachers were fired or forced into retirement?
*How many teachers still on the job were placed under a doctor’s care because test-based accountability had destroyed their self-confidence?
*How many communities experienced sharp declines in the number of teachers of color working in their schools?
*How many new charter schools were created which were embroiled in controversy because of financial irregularities or abusive practices?
*How many lucrative contracts were extended to test companies and consulting firms?
*How many students were deprived of recess, physical education and the arts because they were forced to prepare for tests?
*How many special needs or ELL students were unable to graduate because requirements were suddenly raised?
*How many families with young children were filled with stress because testing had taken over their lives?
What other questions need to be asked and answered?