Is it wishful thinking or a sign of things to come? Do we really have a head coach for the national education standards movement bunking down at the seventh floor on Maryland Avenue? Eduflack may be reading what he wants to in a recent Washington Post interview, but it sure looks like EdSec Arne Duncan is wrapping a big ol’ bear hug around national standards.
In this morning’s WaPo, former gossip columnist Lois Romano offers up a short interview with the EdSec. (There’s even a video of the interview, for those who don’t want to be bothered by the written word.) This is clearly part of Duncan’s ongoing charm offensive tour, and offers a broad brush on Duncan’s goals as the nation’s top educator. Who knew, for instance, that the primary charge from President Obama was to drive up college graduation rates? Seems to me we have a great deal of work to do in early education and K-12 before we can even address the issue of college-going and college graduation rates. But it is a popular topic, particularly in our current economy.
What really struck Eduflack, though, was Duncan’s response to why the education community had turned on No Child Left Behind:
“What didn’t work was this idea of 50 states . . . setting their own standards. . . . What they did is they were very loose on the goals, on the benchmarks, but very, very tight in how you get there. I think we need to reverse that. We need to have a tight, clear bar that we are all shooting for . . . but provide much more flexibility and the ability to innovate and be looser in how folks get there.”
Don’t know about you, but that looks a pretty definitive endorsement of national standards. The failure of NCLB was that each state set their own mile markers to measure against a single federal yardstick — NCLB. The fix, the “tight, clear bar” that Duncan is talking about? It can only mean national standards, a common measure that every student in the nation is held to.
After so many years of watching EdSecs fighting against the notion of national standards, it is refreshing to see Duncan so clearly embrace the notion without apologizing for his opinions or stating it is just a personal belief and not a policy plan. And with Duncan’s strong relationships with national standards advocates like NGA and CCSSO, this could actually move from rhetoric to real action. Whuda thunk?