Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dana Goldstein on Ed Reform and Party Politics

Dana Goldstein NAILS one of the key lessons from the recent election: the importance of having DEMOCRATS pushing reform, as it completely undermines the usual defenses of the forces of the status quo:

So what we're seeing is that data-driven, standardized testing-centered school reform is most politically palatable when it is pursued by Democrats. As Alexander Russo notes, reformers need to support school funding if they want to be trusted by teachers and the public. In other words, as the PAC Democrats for Education Reform has long argued, the standards-and-accountability agenda seems to make the biggest strides when it is pursued by Democratic politicians, because of the Nixon-goes-to-China power of the traditional allies of teachers' unions and public schools asking them to change their ways.

None of this is intended to be a normative statement either for or against this particular agenda. I'm generally more skeptical of testing and more bullish on (modernized) vocational education and school desegregation than the standards-and-accountability movement writ large. But after covering education for six years, it has become more and more clear to me that in places where mainstream Democratic politicians embrace standards/accountability/choice-driven reform, the education left--teachers' unions, class size activists, charter school foes--have few recourses on Election Day. Where the choice/accountability agenda is most closely affiliated with Republicans, on the other hand, the unions can push back, hard, at the ballot. 

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