Thursday, November 06, 2008

Podesta: Troubled Waters

Amid all the elation about Obama's victory, let's not forget that the struggle over NCLB is far from over. During the campaign, he made some encouraging statements about the abuses of testing and the need to increase federal funding for K-12. But his positions on the most contentious reauthorization issues were not very specific. Thus the direction an Obama Administration will take is anybody's guess.

Today's Washington Post -- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/04/AR2008110404573.html -- includes a couple of ominous notes on this score:

1. Obama has asked John Podesta, former Clinton chief of staff and currently head of the Center for American Progress, to head his transition team. CAP is a liberal think-tank that's been among the most uncritical supporters of NCLB. Last year Podesta teamed up with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to release a report bashing American schools, claiming that the vast majority of students are not proficient in reading. As Gerald Bracey pointed out, using the same absurd and arbitrary "proficiency" level, the identical conclusion could be reached about students anywhere in the world, including the top-scoring country, Sweden.

Unfortunately, whoever heads the transition team has a big say in major appointments -- e.g., U.S. Secretary of Education.

2. Among the trial balloons -- a.k.a. "names being mentioned" -- for that job is Joel Klein, chancellor of NYC schools and a big supporter of high-stakes testing, among other odious practices. No doubt New Yorkers on the list can provide additional details.

Along with Al Sharpton, Klein is co-chairing the Education Equality Project -- the Defend NCLB pole in the reauthorization debate: http://www.educationequalityproject.org/. During the campaign, Obama's top education advisor has been Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford, who is decidedly not in the Klein-Sharpton camp. In fact, she's a representative of the other major pole, which calls itself A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education: http://www.boldapproach.org/.

Many people have speculated that Prof. Darling-Hammond would be a logical choice for Secretary of Education. But that may just be wishful thinking on the part of progressives. She's not among any of the names being leaked, as far as I've seen. Other names that are being mentioned: former Sen. David Boren of Oklahoma, a conservative Democrat, and former Gov. Tom Kean of New Jersey, a moderate Republican. Neither is known to be critical of NCLB.

As I noted in my previous message, we have our work cut out for us.
Jim Crawford. ELL Advocates.
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