By Diane Ravitch
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s commentary for EdSource last month, called “How Not to Fix No Child Left Behind,” consisted for the most part of mushy platitudes that must be measured against the realities of his actions over the past six years.
During that time, Duncan has aggregated an unprecedented power to tell states and districts how to operate. The administration’s Race to the Top program was not passed into law by Congress, yet it was funded with $5 billion awarded by Congress as part of the economic stimulus plan following the 2008 recession.
Duncan used that huge financial largesse to make himself the nation’s education czar. When states were most economically distressed, he dangled billions of dollars before them in a competition. They were not eligible to enter the competition unless they agreed to lift caps on opening more privately managed charter schools, to rely on test scores to a significant degree when evaluating teachers, to adopt “college-and-career-ready standards” (aka the Common Core standards, which had not even been completed in 2009 when the competition was announced) and to take dramatic action to “turn around” schools with low test scores (such as closing the school or firing all or most of the staff).