Home > Uncategorized > NPE, Diane Ravitch’s Legacy Organization, Offers Qualified Support for Miguel Cardona… In a Nutshell: “It Could Been Worse…and We Are Holding Out Hope!”

NPE, Diane Ravitch’s Legacy Organization, Offers Qualified Support for Miguel Cardona… In a Nutshell: “It Could Been Worse…and We Are Holding Out Hope!”

January 6, 2021

As readers of this blog realize, I am an avid supporter of Diane Ravitch’s writing and thinking about public schools. She has been a voice of reason in a era where cheap, easy, and profitable solutions are being proposed for “failing” public schools… and to amplify her voice she worked to launch the Network for Public Education (NPE), an organization committed to promoting locally governed public education. Like Ms. Ravitch I was neither thrilled nor dismayed with President-elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona. Unlike, Ms. Ravitch, though, I could not capture my mixture of misgivings and hope. This link to NPE’s recounting of her position will give you the full context of her qualified endorsement, but to save you clicking I am pasting her eloquent analysis of why he is a decent if not exceptional choice and the daunting task he faces. The highlights are mine:

I am still hoping for a Secretary who recognizes that the past twenty years have been a nightmare for American public schools, their students, and their teachers. I am still hoping for someone who will publicly admit that federal education policy has been a disaster since No Child Left Behind and its kissing-cousin Race to the Top, modified slightly by the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” Maybe Dr. Cardona will be that person. We will see.

I believe that the federal government has exceeded its competence for twenty years and has dramatically overreached by trying to tell schools how to reform themselves when there is hardly a soul in Washington, D.C., who knows how to reform schools. Our nearly 100,000 public schools are still choking on the toxic fumes of No Child Left Behind, a law that was built on the hoax of the Texas “miracle.” We now know that there was no Texas miracle, but federal and state policymakers still proceed mindlessly on the same simple-minded track that was set into law in 2001.

Perhaps Dr. Cardona will introduce a note of humility into federal policy. If so, he will have to push hard to lift the heavy hand of the federal government. Twenty years of Bush-Obama-Trump policies have squeezed the joy out of education.Many schools have concentrated on testing and test-prepping while eliminating recess and extinguishing the arts. As an experienced educator, Dr. Cardona knows this. He will be in a position to set a new course.

If he does, he will push back against the mandated annual testing regime that is not known in any nation with high-performing schools.

If he intends to set a new course, he will grant waivers to every state to suspend the federal tests in 2021.

If he intends to set a new course, he will ask Congress to defund the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program, which is not needed and has proved effective only in spreading corporate charter chains where they are not wanted. Two NPE studies (hereand here), based on federal data, showed that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the federal CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. More than $1 billion in federal funds was wasted on failed charters. Let the billionaires pay for them, not taxpayers, whose first obligation is to provide adequate funding for public schools.

Further, if he wants genuine reform, he will begin the process of writing a new federal law to replace the Every Student Succeeds Act and dramatically reduce the burdens imposed by clueless politicians on our nation’s schools.

Dr. Cardona is known for his efforts to reopen the schools during the pandemic. He knows that this can’t happen without the resources to reopen safely. The pandemic is surging again. It is not over. He knows this, and he will have to move with caution not to put the lives of staff or students at risk.

I will not judge him until I see how he handles not only the present dire moment but the legacy of twenty years of failed federal policy.I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Hope springs eternal. We can’t live without it.

He has the right background… he attended and led public schools and championed programs that help ALL children succeed and avoided stepping on the many landmines that exist in the field. Here’s hoping he can inspire politicians to abandon the test-and-punish regimen that has sapped public schools of their spirit without doing anything to improve the opportunities for the most disadvantaged students. I still have hope that our public schools can all function as effectively as those funded by the engaged and affluent parents.

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