Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced last Friday that he is stepping down from his own position. To commemorate his departure, AEI’s Frederick Hess wrote a commentary for National Review that outlines Duncan’s long record of pushing bad policy and dividing Americans.
There was the mean-spirited partisanship. When congressional Republicans raised concerns about the administration’s preschool proposals, Duncan dismissed such worries as “morally indefensible” and tantamount to “education malpractice.”
There was the bureaucratic, Washington-centric Race to the Top program. Race to the Top is often hailed as Duncan’s signature success. If so, that’s a sad commentary. Congress earmarked more than $4 billion in stimulus funding to support states tackling four broad areas of reform. Duncan’s team proceeded to turn that into a prescriptive 19-item checklist, one that required states to pledge fealty to Duncan’s reform agenda — and on his timeline. The program massively increased federal control over state policy, pushed states to adopt the Common Core even before it had been committed to paper — in fact, Race to the Top was literally unwinnable if states didn’t adopt the standards — and led to rushed and half-baked proposals of potentially good ideas (like overhauling teacher evaluation).
There was the denigration of Common Core opponents. Duncan made Common Core a condition not only of the Race to the Top program but also of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers. And when all the strong-arming eventually fueled pushback, Duncan told a room of the nation’s state education chiefs that the complaints were coming from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — [realize] their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” Duncan told the American Society of Newspaper Editors — while charging them with cracking down on the skeptics — that the Common Core pushback could be chalked up to a misinformed, ideological “fringe.”
The whole commentary is definitely worth the read. See the rest at National Review here.