States Right?

I’m very surprised that Diane Ravitch, who I consider an outstanding education historian, would write this in an op-ed in The Times:

Under current law, Congress now decides precisely which sanctions and penalties are needed to reform schools, which is way beyond its competence. The leaders of the House and Senate Education Committees are fine men, but they do not know how to fix the nation’s schools.

The obvious solution is to reverse roles. Washington should supply unbiased information about student academic performance to states and local districts. It should then be the responsibility of states and local districts to improve performance.

That’s actually something of a caricature of how the law works, if anything it allows too many outs. But on the broader point, didn’t we try this already? It was called 20th Century American education and while it worked very well for some students, it didn’t work so well for many kids with special needs, economically disadvantaged students, minority students, etc…that’s why, you know, the federal government got involved in the first place. Doesn’t mean that this doesn’t create problems, too, but on balance I’d argue that federal involvement has been a net plus for all those populations.

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