Monday, January 31, 2011

Rotherham on the SOTU

And here's Andy Rotherham's take: 

Despite all the rhetoric about education leading up to tonight, there wasn't actually a lot of substance on elementary and secondary education in the president's speech but there were some signals. The president took a well-earned victory lap on the state Race to the Top competition but did not push as hard on No Child Left Behind reauthorization -– now four years overdue -– as many expected. That will help reassure accountability hawks who fear that all the talk about flexibility portends a deal that trades an education win for the administration for a weakening of the law's rules protecting poor and minority students in suburban schools.

Even more interesting were two subtleties buried in the education passages.  The president didn't explicitly talk about national standards but clearly alluded to them while praising Race to the Top's accomplishments.  That's an interesting choice (he could have praised changes in charter school laws or improved teacher evaluation for example) in front of an audience with many more local-control advocates than when he last addressed the chamber.

But he wasn't just poking to the right. The president singled-out a Denver school that was turned around only after its teachers took on their own union to get out from under the standard collective bargaining agreement. Needless to say that's a strategy the two national teachers' unions don't want to see replicated around the country. I wrote about that episode on The Times's Op-Ed page a few years ago. Michael Bennet, now a senator from Colorado, was the superintendent in Denver at the time and the move was controversial then and the idea remains contentious today.  Of all the schools the president could have chosen to highlight, it's a fascinating choice.

 Subscribe in a reader