I don’t know exactly what it is about the Obama administration that seems to send the normally clear-eyed Rick Hess into tinfoil hat territory. This week, Rick reads an interview with Safe and Drug-Free Schools head Kevin Jennings and concludes the Common Core standards effort is a “Trojan Horse” for “social agendas.”
To be fair to Rick, some of the comments from Jennings–who has a history of saying things that might be better left unsaid–are a bit inartful and confusing. But, if you read the entire interview, Jennings appears to be talking about replacing ESEA’s current definition of “persistently dangerous schools,” (which basically allows states to set their own standards so lax they claim no persistently unsafe schools) with a common definition across states that would look beyond whether or not students in the school had been victims of violent incidents at school to include other indicators from student, faculty, and parent surveys. That sounds pretty tame.
While I don’t share Rick’s paranoia here, I’m still skeptical of this endeavor. The “persistently dangerous school” thing was always a bit of a gimmick, and the federal role in “Safe and Drug Free Schools” has never been very effective. I’d rather just see the feds get out of that particular business altogether, and instead beef up funding for programs at HHS and NIH that deal with youth mental health and substance abuse. I also think there are reasons to be concerned that inclusion of “school climate” surveys in ESEA’s accountability mechanism could water down accountability for academic outcomes. We can already see the emerging push to replace AYP with more “comprehensive” accountability systems based on”opportunity to learn” and “multiple measures” that throw in everything including the kitchen sink and would allow student academic outcomes to get lost in the shuffle.