You can summarize the fallout of the elections on schools in three simple outcomes: No change in federal policy, two big state charter expansions got passed–and through ballot initiatives (!), and in a blow to supporters of national standards and tests the state superintendent of schools in Indiana got shown the door.
In more detail, on federal policy:
1. Arne Duncan stays US Secretary of Education.
2. The next four years will look like the last three years. That is, the first Obama administration was split between a Year 1 and Years 2-4. Year 1 was all using the bully pulpit to get state legislatures to revamp charter laws. It was a sea-change on the education landscape, with the dynamics around charter schools likely altered for good. Years 2-4 were all about making states comply with a checklist of what DC insiders consider “real reform” (national standards, curricular guidance, and tests; bureaucratic teacher evaluations; etc.) through grants, the bully pulpit, and waivers not sanctioned by Congress.
3. The accountability bloom is off the rose and likely not a core element of the second Obama administration. As RiShawn Biddle notes:
The administration’s evisceration of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Adequate Yearly Progress accountability provisions through its waiver process is doing more to weaken the very reform efforts centrist Democrats embrace than any opposition from traditionalist circles. From the embarrassment of approving Virginia’s abysmally low proficiency targets, which had only required districts to ensure that 57 percent of black students (and 65 percent of Latino peers) were proficient in math by 2016-2017, to revelations that states are being allowed to provide inaccurate and deceptive graduation rates, there is little about the Obama waiver gambit that has proven to beneficial to advancing systemic reform.
After the waivers, the administration will have a tough time turning around and pushing for high proficiency levels in the national tests.
4. Finally, file under “Obvious,” but don’t expect an NCLB/ESEA compromise anytime soon.
At the state level there were big changes. Big changes came to Georgia and Washington state where
Two ballot measures concerning charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated, spawned fierce battles in Georgia and Washington State.
Georgia’s measure, which passed handily on Tuesday, asked voters to amend the State Constitution to allow for a commission that would approve new schools that had been rejected by local school boards.
In Washington State, a ballot initiative, “the fourth time in 16 years that Washington voters had been asked to approve charter schools” changed the state, which was “one of only nine states that [did] not allow charter schools. The ballot measure would open the door slowly, permitting the approval of 40 schools over five years.”
Getting charter schools adopted through ballot initiatives is a tough slog, and to see both states do it this year just builds on the incredible expansion of choice and charters in the past several years. State after state has advanced this agenda.
Finally, and importantly, there was the electoral defeat of Tony Bennett, state superintendent of schools in Indiana. As noted in my November 5 blog,
The criticism coming from academic experts, Indiana parents, and local media is clearly growing in intensity. To go back to Hoosiers, they all feel that Coach Bennett’s decision to adopt Common Core shortened the free throw line on expectations for the kids in Indiana’s traditional public schools.
… He’s, in essence, lowered the rim for all the kids and parents who have turned to alternatives, whether public charter schools or private school choice. As public schools, charters have had to focus their work on Common Core’s objectives and therefore they are aiming for a much lower academic standard.
As regards school choice, it’s just as bad. Unlike Massachusetts, Indiana has a voucher program. And that voucher program came with the requirement that private, including Catholic, schools had to take state-sanctioned tests. With the transfer over to national standards and tests, private schools now frame their curricula on Common Core and must take the (not yet finished and never field tested!) national tests.
and closed with this:
The clock is winding down on Tuesday. Coach Bennett may eke out a victory and remain as superintendent of public instruction, but the game has changed and no amount of motivational talk is going to make his original game plan work.
A few local news outlets claimed I was overstating the case. The score is in: Bennett lost and he lost because of his support, advocacy and pom-poms for Common Core. After the “forced” retirement of Utah’s school superintendent Larry Shumway, I would guess that many state education leaders will study the fallout of the Indiana election very closely.
Crossposted at Boston.com’s Rock the Schoolhouse. Follow me on twitter at @jimstergios, or visit Pioneer’s website.