Department of Education

False Choice
April 15, 2011

For decades, policy wonks, lawmakers, and educators have wrestled with the phenomenon of the achievement gap in U.S. schools. The answer to the essential question—why does such a racialized gap exist?—has proven elusive. Race itself, poverty, location, lack of stability at home, and bad teachers has each been the culprit du jour at one time or another. Recently, however, many conservatives have decided that the problem might be the whole of public education—so they have sought to direct more funds toward private schools. On March 31, the U.S.

New Arizona Bill Would Require Schools to Report Undocumented Students to Law Enforcement
February 22, 2011

Conservative lawmakers in the Arizona legislature made national headlines last week for a slew of draconian and potentially unconstitutional immigration bills. It turns out, however, that those measures were just the beginning of a bigger campaign.

Budget 2012: Education and the Audacity of Hope
February 18, 2011

As seasoned observers have acknowledged, a sharply divided Washington makes President Obama’s budget this year at least as much a political act as a policy one. Ambitious new initiatives stand little chance at passage. Yet it’s still worth asking how the administration sees education through a political lens. After all, President Obama identified education as one of the central pillars for investment in his State of the Union call to “win the future.” Let’s start then with the top line. The Department of Education surfaces as one of the clear winners in the FY 2012 Obama budget.

The Case Against Publishing Teacher Ratings in 'The New York Times'
January 20, 2011

[Guest post by Seyward Darby:] On Wednesday, Slate ran an article defending several media outlets in New York that want to publish, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg’s education department, value-added assessment data of the city’s teachers. The outlets would be following the lead of the Los Angeles Times, which published such data last year.

‘Senator Junior DeMint’
December 23, 2010

With all the hullabaloo surrounding Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller during the midterms, it was easy to lose track of some equally conservative, but less flamboyant, candidates. And it seems safe to say that no Tea Partier had more success while garnering less national attention than Mike Lee. While running for Senate, the 39-year-old Utah Republican proposed dismantling the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Republican Ed Dept. Elimination Nostalgia
September 28, 2010

If you're old enough to remember the 1995 Republican Revolution, one key aspect of the revolution's downfall was education. Republicans proposed to abolish the Department of Education, and Democrats used this issue to pummel the GOP. Eventually, wiser heads within the party reasoned that it wasn't worth absorbing so much political pain over a department that accounts for just a tiny fraction of the federal budget.

The Good News About New York Students' Test Scores
August 04, 2010

New York got some tough education news last week: Proficiency on standardized tests, given to students in grades three through eight, is down. Way down. Statewide, the pass rate for math fell from 86 percent to 61 percent; in reading, it plummeted from 77 percent to 53 percent. In New York City, the rate in math dropped from 82 percent to 54 percent; in reading, it fell from 69 percent to 42 percent. The state recalibrated its tests this year, making them tougher and raising the scores needed to pass.

Obama’s Education Agenda Isn’t Anti-Minority
July 28, 2010

When President Obama speaks to the National Urban League on Thursday about education reform, he’ll be on the defensive. On Monday, the league and six other civil rights groups—including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Rainbow Push Coalition—released a document outlining what they see as the most pressing priorities for U.S. public schools. In it, the groups issue strident criticisms of some of Obama’s key reform efforts. Their chief complaint? That Obama’s could further disadvantage minority students.

Number of the Day
July 27, 2010

For many teachers, school's out for much longer than the summer. The Department of Education projects budget crunches will lead to more than:   100,000 teacher layoffs   Although a rough estimate,  this number is frightening. Even worse, the potential layoffs are concentrated most heavily in just a few states--The Washington Post reports that unions project "9,000 in New Jersey, 16,000 in New York and 36,000 in California." Class sizes will grow, and students will suffer. Unless, of course, Congress can get its act together and pass an edujobs bill.

Drain Education Reform Money, Lay Off Teachers, or Pay Them Less? An Ugly Choice.
July 16, 2010

The fate of the $10 billion edujobs bill, which is meant to prevent more than 100,000 teacher layoffs across the country, remains unclear. Before Congress went on vacation earlier this month, the House passed edujobs as an amendment to a larger spending bill and sent it to the Senate. But, as I wrote at the time, the House agreed to pay for the provision in part by cutting funds from some of Obama’s most vital education reform initiatives, including Race to the Top. The president threatened a veto, and the Department of Education immediately embarked on a push to find the money elsewhere.