Rick Hess’s Scorecard on President Obama’s K-12 Education Record

Earlier this month, Rick Hess wrote a balanced, judicious take on President Obama’s K-12 record for Education Next. There is the good:

The administration also did a terrific job wielding the bully pulpit. Secretary Duncan admirably noted the “New Normal” and publicly discussed the need to do better with the dollars schools currently have. He flagged the problems with simple-minded NCLB metrics and made clear the need to rethink the law’s crude accountability system and remedy cascade. He also did an impressive job broadening the national K-12 reform conversation to include teacher quality, school choice, school improvement, and school safety.

And the bad:

The Department undermined cost-effective efforts by making excuses for districts while showering on new dollars, as well as by touting the need to add or preserve K-12 jobs in promoting Edujobs and celebrating ARRA. I was particularly taken by the state-by-state mock-ups that showed how many education jobs were “saved” by the stimulus, and by Secretary Duncan telling the press two year agos that districts had been cutting their budgets for a half-decade or more (false) and had already cut “through, you know, fat, through flesh, and into bone.”

Hess acknowledges that the Obama administration faces a delicate balancing act. One potential advantage of a Republican administration is that it is not beholden to the same educational constituencies, the teachers unions most importantly; yet Republicans are beholden to other constituencies, e.g., state and local elected officials resistant to reform or spending discipline.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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