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Second in the list of worst events, the Hoover scholars listed “Bungling of reauthorization of No child Left Behind by a slowpoke Congress and a Constitution-oblivious President.” Obama “has turned to backdoor legislation-via-waivers. Such waivers will enact his pet reforms…by decree.”
The waivers have major constitutional and legal problems and have created “even more bad blood with Congress. Public schools need accountability….But, thus far, Congress and the President have bungled this.”
On the good side, California’s State Board of Education rules allow a “parent trigger” to operate. If a petition signed by more than half the parents in a school requests it, a public school must be turned into a charter school or at least some other “transformational remedy.” Four more states have followed this approach, and similar measures are under consideration in dozens of other states.
Also of educational benefit, D. C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s path-setting teacher-evaluation system was left in place by the new mayor, despite union opposition. It is being used to judge teacher performance and authorize dismissals “based on classroom ineffectiveness.” It also offers money rewards for teachers doing the best job. “It should serve as a national model,” the Hoover study said. Fat chance of selling the Obama Administration on such a sound idea.
Finally, among the “best developments,” Hoover listed Indiana’s record of reform. During 2011, the state did away with collective bargaining for teacher benefits and work rules. It allowed all universities to authorize charter schools. And a scholarship program for low-income students was adopted.
It should be noted that nearly 30 years after the release of the stunning report “A Nation at Risk,” the “rising tide of mediocrity” in education still exists and still threatens our future, despite the scores of billions of dollars plowed into education at the federal, state and local levels.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, found only one-third or fewer eighth graders proficient in math, science, or reading. The high school rate of graduation was less than 70 percent. And 76 percent of high school graduates were not prepared for first year college courses.
Among the year’s worst, the study says, is that “Jerry Brown is moving California from bad to worse.” Brown has signaled that he would like to do away with tests altogether.
He had come to the strange conclusion that test scores don’t measure “good character” or “love of learning.”
Finally on the dark side, was the union’s victory in Ohio, overturning Governor Kasich’s bargaining reforms. On the election in this November, the unions had stirred police and firemen into warning that crimes would rise and homes would burn.
The state’s school districts face a deficit of close to $8 billion by 2015. Polls show that Ohio voters want benefits for public employees “to resemble those in the private sector.” In time, that means teachers will have to pay (to use an Obama turn of phrase used against millionaires) their “fair share.”
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