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Valerie Strauss Offers a Hopeful Forecast for the Direction the Biden Administration Will Take

November 14, 2020

As noted in the previous post, President Elect Joe Biden has selected Linda Darling-Hammond to head his Education transition team, a role she played leading into the Obama administration. In this Washington Post article, columnist Valerie Strauss laments the results of the Obama administration’s education policy but sees a different outcome this time around.  She believes Mr. Biden will listen to and act upon the ideas about education equity that Ms. Darling-Hammond espouses as opposed to the “run-schools- like-a-business” ideas Mr. Obama ultimately embraced. Ms. Strauss’ perspective on the Obama administration is succinctly and bluntly summarized in this paragraph:

Obama wound up tapping Arne Duncan, a reformer in the DFER mold, as education secretary. Duncan, the former chief of Chicago schools, pushed the evaluation of teachers by student standardized test scores, the adoption by states of Common Core State Standards and the expansion of charter schools. The result was that students took many more standardized tests and some states created cockamamie evaluation systems that saw teachers evaluated by the test scores of students they didn’t have. The Common Core, which started with bipartisan support, saw a rushed implementation that helped lead to opposition to it.

Ms. Strauss noted that unions perceived Mr. Biden as fair and even-handed and looked to him as a “North Star” when he served in the Obama administration. And President-elect Biden’s plan for funding and improving public education is ambitious and expensive. But, as Ms. Strauss points out, the primary role of the transition team will be to identify all the places the Trump administration backtracked on the positive reforms of the Obama administration and acted to undercut public schools in favor of religious and other private schools. Ms. Strauss concludes her article with this dose of reality:

It is more than highly unlikely that there will be federal funding available to do everything he promised, but public education advocates say they are hopeful that he will stick to his promise to concentrate on publicly funded school districts and not school choice, like DeVos, or standardized testing, like Duncan.

All the signs at the moment indicate that Biden’s education agenda will be significantly different from Duncan’s (and certainly DeVos’s) and start to address the issue of educational equity in ways that Darling-Hammond has always thought were important, including how public schools are funded. Stay tuned.

I will stay tuned… and will be most interested to see what President Biden’s first budget looks like when it comes to funding his promises.

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