Years ago there was a tacit understanding between educator groups and the reform community of business and civil rights groups. In a nutshell, it involved a commitment to reform based on accountability along with additional resources. The deal was grounded in a mutual commitment to the improvement of public education. Neither side was always happy, to be sure. The reformers wanted faster, surer implementation. And the educators wanted even more funding. But an approach of mutuality was born.
Notwithstanding this coming together, and with increasing fervor and resources, the educrats chose over the past decade and a half to abandon these positions and fundamentally end, not mend, reform grounded in accountability.
Were there problems with accountability systems that arose in the wake of the standards based movement that began in the 1990s? Absolutely. Were these problems fixable? Absolutely.
Yet, it has been the evermore strident and nasty position of the educrats and their friends that real accountability needed to be jettisoned. And, without question, these interests have been increasingly successful since the late 2000s in weakening accountability.
One can see their effect in the waivers the Administration issued as a wrong-headed response to fixing NCLB. One can also see their effect in diluted policies in states like Texas that were once pioneers in accountability. And one can see their effect in the loss of momentum at the local level that, among other things, ultimately brought the Broad Foundation to the view that there was insufficient reform and improvement to merit continuing the Broad Prize for local districts.
We can already see the effects on student achievement of these anti-accountability initiatives. NAEP scores since 2009 are largely flat to down. And state and local scores on state measures in many places are flat as well.
The chickens are coming home to roost.
They're coming home to roost, however, in even more ways than the perpetrators of these efforts would have imagined or wanted.
The educrats were so intent to achieve the short term benefit of ridding themselves of the pressure to be held accountable for student results that they did what it took to win that short term victory. They blew past the civil rights groups and business groups and increasingly allied with certain conservatives who had their own reasons to defeat state and federal reform policies. But actions have consequences.
Yes, indeed, many of the educrats' new partners believed so strongly in "local control" they
were more than happy to cooperate in weakening state and federal laws and policies. But now it's
time for these "partners" to pursue their other objectives.
As one of the links shows, one such objective is to cut spending and reduce taxes and debt, and
that's being manifested in the House appropriations that were just voted. So, the new reality is
increasingly less reform and less resources. That's surely a toxic mix.
The other link shows another consequence of the educrats' decision. The public is moving more
and more to support of education options and choice outside of the traditional system. And why
If the system no longer is adequately measured with results made fully transparent and
consequences applied, it seems only natural that a whole assortment of folks and groups will
move away from it.
They will increasingly complain that they can no longer see the effectiveness of their tax dollars.
They will no longer know from year to year where their children are academically on objective
measures. They will no longer see a press at any level to keep improving results.
The chickens are coming home to roost in so many terrible ways. It's not too late to reverse
course, but the damage of staying on this path will be incalculable.