Unforced Error On Common Core, Unaddressed Problem On Everything Else

You have to think that when the history of the Common Core standards debate is written – however it turns out – the inclusion of support for Common Core (albeit not by specific name) in the 2012 Democratic Party Platform and the premature victory lap about standards adoption will be remembered as an unforced error. Among other things it created a target and empowered the Republican National Committee to go on record against the standards, which has legitimized the opposition in a powerful way these past few weeks.

Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss has a predictably slanted take on the problems facing the Obama Administration in its second term.  The issues she raises are real but – surprise – lack any context.  But the Administration does have a big second term problem that insiders are talking and speculating about: Pretty much all of the administration’s major accomplishments and policy changes are based on administrative authority or one-time legislative authority. The 2009 recovery bill was a major windfall of dollars and authority that allowed the administration to set in motion a variety of initiatives including Race to the Top.  Some of those – versions of Race to the Top for instance – have been sustained in various ways on appropriations bills but they lack permanent authorizations.  Meanwhile, the No Child Left Behind waivers are entirely administrative.

In political terms it’s an eternity until 2016 and the next presidential election.  Substantively, however, the administration doesn’t have a lot of time to cajole Congress into codifying their policies legislatively through a No Child Left Behind reauthorization or other vehicles. Otherwise the Obama education agenda is fragile and contingent upon the next President and Secretary of Education – something obviously unknowable right now.

That, not the predictable and inevitable implementation challenges that accompany all big policy changes, is the real second term problem facing the Obama Administration.  And so far it’s unclear what their plan for addressing it is.

4 thoughts on “Unforced Error On Common Core, Unaddressed Problem On Everything Else

  1. Mike G

    I guess it wouldn’t have been quite as appealing to her readers to have written:

    “They borrowed tactics from their normal grantmaking arm and every philanthropy in the nation, setting up the competitive Race to the Top initiative, in which states competed for federal funds by promising to implement specific reforms.”

    Gotta get that word “corporate” in there.

  2. Bruce William Smith

    Because the states have traditionally been sovereign with respect to education, the decision to adopt philanthropies’ grantmaking tactics and to force the states to compete for federal assistance in their time of direst need, as a result of problems more attributable to federal than to state misdeeds, was bound to cause resentment, and to a steady erosion of whatever limited popularity such tactics might once have been able to claim. I see rising resentment, at more local levels, and especially in schools, throughout the United States at the managerial styles that emanate from New York City and Washington, D.C., and that resentment is spreading into the homes of a broad spectrum of families as well. What we need is more social solidarity, and this is likeliest to be built up by policymakers who have a more limited vision of their role in society.

  3. disagreement

    “unforced error” Minimize much? I love it when this website admits that Diane Ravitch was right about something, it does it so suavely. This happens a lot here. Kind of like reading that other hack’s article–Petrilli, I think–when he gently admitted that tying teacher evaluations to test scores was a mistake. You know, like Ravitch has been saying since 2010.

    You guys eat crow so delicately, it’s a genuine pleasure to watch.

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