Campaign 2012: Differences Within Pro- & Anti-Reform Camps
There are some interesting internal differences and disagreements going on in education-land right now, differences which I think are healthy on the whole in that they illustrate substantive differences of opinion, independent thinking among entitities that too often agree with (or disagree with) each other automatically, and the reality that neither teachers, nor reformers, nor Democrats or Republicans are as monolithic as they are sometimes depicted on education issues.
So, for example, while union leaders expressed strong support for the President's remarks on education earlier this week, some teachers (see John Thompson below) were deeply disappointed that the President didn't go further towards dismantling NCLB's accountability system. They see the NCLB waiver scheme as more of the same, rather than any kind of surrender on testing and accountability.
In the meantime, several civil rights and some reform groups are banding together to express concerns that the Kline NCLB reauthorization proposal and top Democrats on the Hill are urging the Administration's waiver scheme not to go too far in sending responsibility for educating children back to the states. But at least one group, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst, declined to sign onto the letter to Kline because it didn't include praise for the teacher evaluation measures in his proposal.
There's no big mystery behind the differences, really. Teacher advocates opposed to standardized testing and accountability want to push back against the current system as much as possible, knowing that they will only get some of what they ask for. Teachers unions want to create an environment in which they are heard without going so far as to scuttle a Democratic President's re-election chances. Civil rights and some reform groups are more concerned about schools' longstanding habit of not paying much attention to poor, minority, and special needs students than they are about teachers' pedagogical or curricular autonomy. Rhee's organization is building its reputation as being the most politically indepedent of the reform organizations, and the most narrowly concerned with teacher evaluation issues rather than broader concerns about accountability, etc.
These internal differences do make things interesting, though, in the sense that they show that no one --not reformers or reform opponents -- can claim an entirely unanimous front. Teachers, teachers unions, and Democratic leaders on the Hill are all in somewhat different places right now. Ditto for reform groups.