Monday, January 08, 2007

Petrilli's Zeitgeist: DEDSEEA (Salty)

Michael J. Petrilli, Fordham Foundation Vice President, has publicly admitted defeat on NCLB, the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Schools Act that celebrates its fifth birthday today. This is a major change in position for the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, but not out of step with Federalist-minded conservatives everywhere. Petrilli clumsily names his best two options in lieu of No Child Left Behind the "Do It Yourself or Don’t Do It At All Act."

I'd rename these two options, at least according to Petrilli's writing here in the National Review, the "Do Everything or Designate to the States Everything Education Act" or DEDSEEA, saltiness implied. As you may intuit, these two options for life after NCLB would have the Federal government taking on all the responsibility for education with national standards and a national test, or handing back all the responsibility to the states with a cracked window open for Federal involvement through grants processes.

There is a lot to digest in Petrilli's admission, but it's a solid read and interesting piece. It's tough for me not to advocate for national standards as they seem to be the holy grail of equitable education. But there is such a rich history of federalism in this country and states seem to want to hold on to their education mandate. For starters I think reauthorization should focused feverishly on educator needs re: NCLB and what doesn't work because of onerous details and what doesn't work because educators lack the tools/know how to get it done. Reauthorization activities should start in the classroom and then work hard to determine where and if states need help. For my money, today, an organic outgrowth of experience and research is necessary to determine the fate of NCLB. Congress should spend two years doing this tough work to determine if reauthorization is prudent.


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