"We are equal parts cautious and optimistic. Overall we see much to like," said Charles Barone, director of federal policy for DFER.
Continued Barone, "Piecing together what's on paper with what we've heard in briefings and conversations with key Administration officials, we think it's a reasonable attempt to maintain a delicate balance between competing aims: to respond to both real and perceived problems with current law; to sustain the law's success in highlighting achievement gaps and to prod state and local reforms to close them; to redouble efforts to improve school leader and teacher effectiveness; and, to fundamentally restructure chronically failing schools.
"The Administration certainly has its work cut out for it. It has to ease discomfort with a law that has identified roughly a third of schools in the U.S. as 'in need of improvement' while at the same time acknowledging that more or less half of all students who graduate high school and enter college require remedial education in reading and math.
"It has to do more to promote local innovation and autonomy and at the same time be mindful that in the vast majority of schools that have been identified as chronically low-performing, state and local school officials have not undertaken the fundamental reforms necessary to fix the structural problems that stand between millions of children and a high quality education.
"By far the biggest obstacles, though, are political. Despite an attempt to incorporate many of the changes sought by teachers' unions and school administrators, there was serious blowback over the weekend from both major teachers' unions.
"Are teachers' unions distorting what's in the plan? Or did they tear a page out of their old playbooks without reading the blueprint?
"Both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers had previously stressed that they will take a tough look at union policies to improve teacher effectiveness and remove underperforming teachers. Both have stated that they want a 'partnership' with government to improve public schools. But, based on their rabid comments over the last few days, and in fact over the course of the entire debate over Race to the Top and ESEA, it turns out that their definition of 'partnership' is terribly unproductive.