Department of Education

Experts suggest the administration's way forward on campus sexual assault.

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Federal Bureaucrats Declare 'Hunger Games' More Complex Than 'The Grapes of Wrath'

The Common Core's absurd new reading guidelines

Meet the "Lexile," the absurd reading metric for the Common Core.

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Ezekiel Emanuel argues that more tests make students smarter, a proposition which is not as simple as it sounds. The validity of his claim comes down to such questions as "who writes the tests," "how quickly are the results reported," and "how are the scores used."

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Republicans want to reduce the size of the federal government, and they won’t take no for an answer. “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub,” Grover Norquist famously declared. And in negotiations over the fiscal cliff, they have insisted on cutting spending rather than raising taxes. “The President wants to pretend that spending isn’t the problem,” House Speaker John Boehner has complained. Democrats, for their part, have responded defensively.

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We all got a good laugh at the recent befuddlement (reported at TNR by Amy Sullivan) of a conservative Republican legislator from Louisiana who withdrew her support from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s school voucher program when she realized that its open door to public support for religious schools was not limited to those catering to Christians. But the underlying principle of Jindal’s initiative—and arguably of Mitt Romney’s little-discussed proposal to convert the bulk of federal K-12 education dollars into vouchers—is no laughing matter.

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When former Indiana Senator Birch Bayh* wrote Title IX forty years ago, his goal was very simple: to make sure women could get a good education. He wanted to force schools to accept women as students, let them into classes, and hire them as professors. And he wanted to make professions that require higher education accessible to women.As the law, which prohibits educational programs that take federal money from discriminating on the basis of sex, celebrates its fortieth birthday on Saturday, the changes Bayh was after have, to a stunning degree, happened—women have been earning more undergraduate degrees than men since 1996 and in 2009 overtook them in the attainment of doctoral degrees; 47 percent of legal degrees and 48 percent of medical degrees were conferred on women in 2010, compared to 7 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 1972. Title IX has become most famous for ushering female athletes onto the playing field—an application of Bayh’s law that he told me didn’t cross his mind when he was defending it in the Senate.Another of the most lasting—and most controversial—legacies of Title IX is, likewise, in an area referenced nowhere in its 37 words: sexual harassment. The law made national headlines once again last spring when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced that it would investigate whether Yale was violating Title IX by allowing a hostile sexual environment. How did a law written to open the doors of classrooms become the staging ground for lawsuits over sexual misconduct?

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Rick Perry’s “Oops” on Wednesday joined the small canon of legendary phrases from presidential debates, right up there with “You’re no Jack Kennedy.” His inability to remember one of the three government agencies he would promise to eliminate as president, together with his smirking indifference to whether it even mattered, was probably the final moment of a candidacy that was already doomed by his lack of preparation for the national stage. But does it matter?

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The Obama administration is pursuing a second round of its education reform agenda. The first round was "Race to the Top," which created a competition among states for extra federal grants that would be won by states with the most impressive reforms. This time around, instead of dollars -- there is no new money to hand out -- the Department of Education is using regulatory relief. The 2001 No Child Left Behind law imposed fairly rigid requirements and standards. Everybody agrees it needs updating, but Congress is too dysfunctional to update it, and has been for several years running.

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Faced with a looming deadline and a deadlocked legislature, Barack Obama is employing a strategy many wish he had in the recent debt ceiling talks: He’s bypassing Congress altogether. On Monday, Obama approved a Department of Education plan to grant waivers allowing states to bypass the most stringent and unrealistic requirements of the Bush-era education law known as No Child Left Behind, including its fairy-tale provision that all schools must be 100 percent proficient in reading and math by 2014, in exchange for the adoption of certain policy priorities.

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Not long ago, Kevin Carey laid out the depressing possibility that Republicans would revert to their "local control" view of education, thus strangling reform. Today George Will reports, encouragingly, that John Kline -- the House Republican who chairs the education committee --  is trying to change the minds of Republicans in the House: Their theory is that education in grades K through 12, which gets most of the Education Department’s attention, is a quintessentially state and local responsibility, so the department is inimical to local control of education.

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