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CPC Letter: On My “To Do” List… Add it to Yours!

January 9, 2015

Yesterday Diane Ravitch wrote a post on Rick Hess’s ranking of influential “Edu-Scholars”. She noted that nine of the ten listed were NOT “reformers” and lamented that the group as a whole was “...ignored by policymakers at the U.S. Department of Education.” She then posed this question:

Whom does Arne Duncan listen to? Who has the ear of the President and Bill Gates? Those are the men who make national policy. Who influences them?

Here’s my answer: they listen to each other!

There is an echo chamber at the top and they all listen to each other… and they ALL believe the answer to school improvement is to “run schools like a business” and the proxy for “profit” is “standardized test scores”. I think Diane’s personal experience in DC is instructive. She looked at the facts and decided that annual testing of children was counter-productive and ultimately concluded it was being used to promote privatization. In order to break through the echo chamber effect we need to get a critical mass of political leaders to have the same epiphany as Diane. How?

I think the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) might be a good place to start (see http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/caucus-members/). The CPC has not weighed in on the reauthorization of NCLB, but I know at least two of the members would be very sympathetic to the issues Diane raises in this blog. I believe the CPC would look at the results of over two decades of standardized testing and conclude that it has not improved the overall performance of students. The CPC would look at the disaggregated data NCLB provided and the “reform” remedies and have them see for themselves that testing, vouchers, charter schools, and privatization and conclude that they have not improved the overall performance of students. The CPC would look at Diane’s work and conclude that the entire privatization movement is eroding local control of schools and contributing to economic inequality. There are 90+ house members and one senator… but they MIGHT get the ear of President or at the very least help get the facts about NCLB in front of their constituents.

If you have ideas on how the CPC might weigh in on the NCLB reauthorization you could write them at: progressive@mail.house.gov. At the same time, you might share your ideas with whoever represents you in Congress.

I’m going to draft a letter that draws on some of the ideas from the series of posts I wrote last September proposing an educational platform for Democrats in 2016. I’ll post it here once it’s written and sent.

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