In a recent post for the Class Struggle blog, the state superintendent of public instruction for Washington State has ten suggestions for a potential Biden/Harris1 administration “to undo the damage Betsy DeVos did to public education”.
He gets off to a great start with “Grant a national waiver of all federally mandated tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act until Congress has an opportunity to amend the law.”.
Unfortunately, he follows that up by pushing for Congress to “scale up” a national test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
That testing program may indeed be “cost-effective”. You could also make the argument that it might be a “real opportunity to finally understand performance differences between the states”.
It is not at all clear that the NAEP, or any of the state standardized tests, is actually a valid assessment of student learning.
I would hope that a new Congress and Secretary of Education would zero out all standardized testing requirements and authorize some serious research into alternative methods of assessing student learning.
As for his other recommendations, I can certainly get behind “immediately suspend any federal dollars used to support school voucher programs”, as long as the order also stops money going to any charter school owned by a for-profit company. The emphasis in any budget – federal, state or local – must be to build strong public schools for all children.
I also completely agree that we need to do far more to close the “digital divide”. Not only in rural and remote areas, but also in the “digital deserts” that exist in large cities and even some suburban neighborhoods. Long term, internet access needs to be regulated as a utility. Like electricity and water, high speed broadband2 should be available to everyone, everywhere at a reasonable cost.
Finally, I’m not completely sold on free college for all students. However, I do support the superintendent’s idea that every graduate should be able to complete two years of quality post-high school training at no cost. Many areas in this country already have great community college systems and they need to be expanded as a fundamental part of the public education system.
Of course, this is only a start. There is far more than just the mess made by DeVos (and her boss) that needs fixing. Even prior to January 2017, the entire education system in this country was in need of an extensive overhaul.
One of my favorite photos, the owner of a 50’s era car in Havana making repairs along the side of the road. Much under-the-hood work will be required in the next ten years to fix this whole country, not just the educational system.
1. Ignore the polls. The result of the election is an IF until all the ballots are counted. Register. Vote!
2. The real thing. Not the crappy, $10 a month “essential” service that qualifies as “high speed” only in the pages of corporate promotional materials.