Quiet but Deadly

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the nineteen finalist states in the federal “Race to the Top.” In his announcement speech, Duncan was unrestrained in the glory he heaped on the $4.35-billion program (and a few others), declaring that ”as we look at the last 18 months, it is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened at the state and local levels, unleashed in part by these incentive programs.” It was, he said, all part of a “quiet revolution” underway in education.

He was right and wrong.

Concerning the “stunning change” wrought by RTTT, we’ve heard such stratospheric hyperbole before and it is no more warranted today than it was a few months ago. Yes, RTTT has produced a fair number of paper changes, but it has yet to accomplish anything discernible when it comes to actual educational outcomes.

Get back to us in a few years, Mr. Secretary, when maybe you’ll be able to justify your horn-tooting. Maybe…

Where Duncan was right was in pointing out that there has been a quiet revolution underway orchestrated largely by Washington, but not a good one. It is the insidious spread of national standards that are unsupported by research, incompatible with great education, and most certainly federal. But those standards – and the federal tests that will be connected to them – may be laying low no longer. Tomorrow, President Obama is scheduled to give a speech to the National Urban League that will emphasize:

how his signature Race to the Top program and other initiatives are driving education reform across the country and focusing the nation on the goal of preparing students for college and careers. He will highlight the unprecedented support for and adoption of common standards by a majority of states already, and the Administration’s commitment to develop the next generation of high-quality assessments benchmarked to common standards.

With so many states having fallen to national standards, the administration seems to think it’s time to acknowledge the revolution.  Hopefully, it’s not too late for a counterrevolution to succeed.