Tag: jay greene

No Foolin’: Tell the Feds to Butt Out

I probably shouldn’t do this on April Fool’s Day — it would be the one day they might go along with it, only to renounce it as a joke later — but Jay Greene’s recent exchange with the Fordham folks reminded me of my call a few weeks ago: Fordham and other national standards supporters should declare publicly and loudly that there should be no federal involvement in “common” standards or anything associated with them.  If they really mean what they say — that they want adoption of national standards and curricula to be ”purely” voluntary for states — they should not only stop asking for federal involvement, they should declare any federal meddling utterly unacceptable.  

Unfortunately, Jay had to repeat that call because, so far, Fordham hasn’t heeded it:

The claim that Kathleen and Fordham want no more than to nationalize standards without touching curriculum, pedagogy, or assessment is simply disingenuous. For example, Checker once again made common cause with the AFT, Linda Darling-Hammond, etc., … in backing the Shanker Manifesto, which calls for “Developing one or more sets of curriculum guides that map out the core content students need to master the new Common Core State Standards.” Checker may claim that this effort is purely voluntary, but that would only be credible if he and Fordham clearly and forcefully opposed any effort by the national government to “incentivize,” push, prod, or otherwise require the adoption of national curriculum based on the already incentivized national standards.

Come to think of it, even if it were an April Fool’s stunt, having Fordham and other national-standards crusaders renounce federal arm-twisting to get their way would be a big step forward. Heck, at least then everyone would acknowledge that it was a joke.

Postscript: It would be a joke, by the way, sort of like this, which I saw Fordham put up right after I initially submitted this post. I mean, my vocab is always certified family-friendly!

Those Fordham folks — you just never know when they’re being serious…

Education, Science, and Humility

U. of Ark. political scientist and education scholar Jay Greene has been blogging about the proper role of science in education policy, and his thoughts (continued here) are well worth reading. In particular, he warns that trying to scientifically find “the one best way” of evaluating teachers or of teaching reading and then attempting to impose that putatively best solution on all children is ultimately misguided and destructive.

I’d add that it is also unscientific. Science is humble. You have to be willing to rethink and potentially discard theories that repeatedly fail to coincide with reality. Well, the theory that governments can operate effective, efficient, innovative education systems from the top down was never supported by the evidence in the first place, and that theory is now buried beneath a vast pile of contrary findings. The system best supported by the empirical evidence is a parent-driven education marketplace such as the one Greene recommends.

Education Policy Meets Whac-a-Mole®

K-12 school choice programs based on education tax credits are receiving a lot of attention after last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments in the Winn case. SCOTUS is likely to overturn a lower court ruling in Winn that would have hobbled or killed Arizona’s education tax credit program, and that has some folks consternated.

Among the ranks of the tetchy is Kevin Carey of the Quick and the Ed. Jay Greene responds here, and concludes, in essence, that Carey is inconsistently alternating between two criticisms of tax credits whenever one is whacked with a compelling counterargument. Worth a read.

Fordham Criticized Again

Great stuff by Jay Greene this morning on yesterday’s Fordham Institute victory dance. Greene rips into the notion that conservatives should support standardization of every American kid, and even dares attack Fordham’s calculation that on “the right” only about six government-loathing libertarians have fought national standards.

Perhaps most important, while I explained (yet again) why the Fordham folks and other big-government conservatives will never get the sustained high standards they want out of a government monopoly, Jay nailed the even more fundamental point:

The real divide here is between people who think that policies are best when decisions are decentralized and choice and competition are enhanced versus people who think that there is a “right way” that should be imposed centrally and should constrain choice and competition.

Unfortunately for Fordham, whether we’re comparing the U.S. to the Soviet economy, or educational freedom to government schooling, choice and competition win every time. Every time, that is, except in political decisions like adopting national standards.

Plowing Through the Defenses of National Education Standards

Arguably the most troubling aspect of the push for national education standards has been the failure – maybe intentional, maybe not – of standards supporters to be up front about what they want and openly debate the pros and cons of their plans. Unfortunately, as Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios laments today, supporters are using the same stealthy approach to implement their plans on an unsuspecting public.

Standing in stark contrast to most of his national-standards brethren is the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli, who graciously came to Cato last week to debate national standards and is now in a terrific blog exchange with the University of Arkansas’s Jay Greene. Petrilli deserves a lot of credit for at least trying to answer such crucial questions as whether adopting the standards is truly voluntary, and if there are superior alternatives to national standards. You can read Jay’s initial post here, Mike’s subsequent response here, and Jay’s most recent reply right here.

I’m not going to leap into most of Jay and Mike’s debate , though it covers a lot of the same ground we hit in our forum last week, which you can check out here. I do want to note two things, though: (1) While I truly do appreciate Mike’s openly grappling with objections to what might be Fordham’s biggest reform push ever, I think his arguments don’t stand up to Jay’s, and (2) I think Mike’s identifying national media scrutiny as what will prevent special-interest capture of national standards is about as encouraging as BP telling Gulf-staters ”we’ve got a plan!”

Let’s delve into #2.

For starters, how much scrutiny does the national media give to legislating generally? Reporters might hit the big stuff and whatever is highly contentious, but even then how much of the important details do they offer? Think about the huge health care debate that just dominated the nation’s attention. How many details on the various bills debated did anybody get through the major media? How much clarity? Heck, sometimes legislators were debating bills that even they hadn’t seen, much less reporters. Of course, the health care bill was much bigger than, say, the No Child Left Behind Act, but remember how long after passage of NCLB it was before the Department of Education, much less the media, was able to nail down all of its important parts?

Which brings us to a whole different layer of policy making, one major media wade into even less often than legislating: writing regulations. How many stories have you read, or watched on TV news, about the writing of regulations for implementing anything, education or otherwise? I’d imagine precious few, yet this is where often vaguely written statutes are transformed into on-the-ground operations. It’s also where the special interests are almost always represented – after all, they’re the ones who will be regulated – but average taxpayers and citizens? Don’t go looking for them.

Finally, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I keep hearing that daily newspapers are on their way out. Of course they might be replaced by cable television news, but those outlets almost always fixate on just the few, really big stories of the day – war, economic downturns, murders, golfers’ affairs, celebrity arrests – and education can rarely compete for coverage. And that seems likely to remain the case even if the education story is as scintillating as, say, federal regulators reducing the content of national standards by five percent. Indeed, education is so low on the reporting totem poll that the Brookings Institution has undertaken a crusade to save its life, and has noted that right now “there is virtually no national coverage of education.”

Wait, virtually none? Uh-oh. If national media scrutiny is supposed to be the primary bulwark protecting national standards from the special-interest capture that has repeatedly doomed state standards, the fact that almost no such coverage actually takes place really doesn’t give you a warm-fuzzy, does it? And if special-interest capture can’t be prevented – if standards can’t be kept high – then the entire raison d’etre of national standards crumbles to the ground.  

Which helps explain, of course, why national standards supporters are typically so eager to avoid debate: Their proposal is hopelessly, fatally flawed.

Jay Greene Minces No Words on National Ed. Standards

Jay makes a number of good points in his blog post on the subject, but particularly effective is his likening of “voluntary” education standards to “voluntary” state speed limits tied to federal highway funding.

When someone takes your money and will only give any of it back if you do as he says, are your actions really voluntary? That’s what the Obama administration and other “voluntary” standards advocates are proposing.

More soon on the folly of imposing a single set of age-based education standards on the entire nation. Stay tuned.