They're announcing the urban NAEP scores this week on Thursday morning and the EdSec is doing an event in Atlanta, one of the 11 cities participating in this pilot now in its 4th year (http://nationsreportcard.gov/.). Watch out, teachers and parents from Venetian Elementary School. Here she comes.
"I don't think the way to do it is a one-size-fits-all national standard that morphs into a national curriculum that morphs into national textbooks," says EdSec Spellings in this US News interview.
"It's the wrong way to go, and it's a giant time-waster."
I'm actually a proponent of national standards, and pushed for them mightily when I worked in the Senate for Jeff Bingaman. But the politics are all wrong on this right now.
It seemed like it was coming, what with Spellings hinting at it last month and all the fun that's been had over the SCHIP veto. And this President has never lacked for confidence, warranted or not. So, yesterday, the President said he'd veto any effort to reauthorize NCLB without maintaining its main provisions (President Bush Discusses The Budget):
"We're teaching a child to read so they can pass a reading test....I believe in local control of schools. That's up to you to chart the path to excellence. But it's up to us to make sure your money is spent wisely...I believe this piece of legislation is important, and I believe it's hopeful, and I believe it's necessary to make sure we got a educated group of students who can compete in the global economy when they get older. Yes, sir."
From the White House NCLB event going on right about now:
"Secretary Spellings and I are so pleased to welcome you all to the Roosevelt Room. With us today are a group of concerned citizens from a variety of groups, here to discuss the No Child Left Behind Act. People around this table care deeply about making sure every child gets a good education. We're deeply concerned about school systems that don't focus on each individual. Some school systems are just moving kids through, and as a result, our education system is letting too many children down, too many families without hope.
"So we're going to strategize [see, he almost said it] and work together to make sure the No Child Left Behind Act is reauthorized and made stronger. And so I want to thank you all for coming. I love your passion. I appreciate the fact that you care deeply about the future of this country, and that you believe, like I believe, every child can learn and we have an obligation to teach every child how to read and write and add and subtract.
"So thank you for joining us. We'll see you all in the Rose Garden here in a minute."
Universal preschool is going to be education campaign issue Number One, says Richard Whitmire (Preschool) based on all the proposals out there. Many would agree with him. But the recent Presidential veto of the S-CHIP shows that it might not be so easy to get something done. President Bush vetoed the S-CHIP on the grounds that it doesn't focus on the poorest kids who already have preschool and creates a major new "entitlement" program. Of course, politics play a part and Bush will not be there in the future, but the struggle shows just how difficult it is to get new programs created even when little kids are involved.
Read all the way to the end of this NPR piece (Hill Panel Ponders Future of NCLB) and you'll see first word I've heard of that Spellings is saying she'd rather have the current NCLB than the Miller draft. Saber-rattling? Maybe. But for those who are most worried about multiple measures and all the rest, it's going to be a serious consideration.
Way back at the beginning of 2006, EdSec Spellings was apparently called into the Oval Office to give counsel on what to do about former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld -- and she recommended his termination, according to this book excerpt sent in by a friend. Who knew? Not that it made much difference. He resigned the day after the November elections. But at least we know she voted the right way.
Meanwhile, Yahoo News dredges up this overview of where other Texans from the early Bush years have gone (Departures diminish Texas flavor at White House). Who's next?
Today is Katherine McLane's last day as Press Secretary for the EdSec, she says. Heading back to Austin to work for the Lance Armstrong Foundation is the given reason. Time to go may be the implicit one. Interim press secty will be Samara Yudof. Mclane was in the job just over a year, according to this press release. Want to know more? Check out her astrology reading from Capitol Weekly. Congrats, condolences to McLane and Yudof.
On your left, you have US EdSec Margaret Spellings -- complete with pearls, flag in the background, and that cute smile with her tongue. On your right, you have the somewhat frumpier Simpsons version of the Secretary, who looks (like many Simpsons characters) a little transgendered. Sorry, Madame Secretary -- it was the best I could do.
Here's the quote: "Employers today need workers with 'pocket-protector' skills, creative problem-solvers with strong math and science backgrounds," said Secretary Spellings. "The more students we train to be entrepreneurs and creative problem solvers, the more jobs they'll create, and the greater ability they'll have to improve the quality of life for others."
Maybe those legal affairs correspondents went a little overboard about the deseg case last week, says Jeff Rosen in the Sunday NY Times: Can a Law Change a Society?
Here's an email from CCCR honcho Dianne Piche that highlights the idea that yesterday's decision doesn't make it illegal or impossible to promote school integration:
"All programs that consider race in order to foster diversity have NOT been outlawed. The votes were 5-4 against the Seattle and Louisville school districts AND 5-4 in favor of legal principles favoring diversity. This so-called “split court” is not unlike the famous “Bakke” decision in the late 1970s, where the Court struck down an affirmative action policy with respect to admissions to the University of California-Davis medical school, while at the same time setting forth legal principles enabling some forms of affirmative action to be preserved."
Read the full email below [a letter to Piche's grad students].
Watch three of the 50 Presidential Scholars who signed and delivered a letter to GWB during the Monday NCLB event:
Or, if you're more into text, read an explanation of what happened and why here.
Forget NCLB. The new class of Presidential Scholars apparently decided to put a little heat on the President in his own house, according to The Cheese Sandwich blog (The Kids Are Alright), calling on him to end torture and illegal detentions, among other things.
While most of political Washington is up in arms about the VP declaring himself not a part of the executive branch, there are still education events on the calendar. As you can see, the President's remarks at this one (video here) include the standard fare (yay, NCLB reauthorization, yay TIF and STEM). Perhaps the most dramatic claim in the President's remarks was as follows: "During the most recent five-year period on record, nine-year-olds made more progress in reading than in the previous 28 years combined." That one's new to me, and a little hard to believe. Someone's going to have to fact-check that one. As far as shows of force go, this one seems pretty weak. McKeon and Castle are mentioned, but no Miller or Kennedy. Even the First Lady, recently enlisted to help with reauthorization, couldn't make it.
Forget what I have to say (below), and check out the video yourself:
That face she makes when asked about smiting the teachers unions is good, as is the wink she gives when offering her "I don't recall" answer.
For anyone who's not an education geek, the real fun of last night's Daily Show wasn't EdSec Spellings' appearance but rather the show's hilarious coverage of the current immigration debate going on in Congress, which included one segment in which a correspondent says reform opponents are worried about the US becoming a "backup" country for illegal immigrants -- "like Wesleyan," and another correspondent, this one tall white and balding, goes to Mexico and try and get back into the US illegally with the help of his burro "Smuggly." Hilarious, over the top, can't-believe-they-said-that kind of stuff that's usually found on the Colbert Report, not The Daily Show.larimar. Stewart took out some pencils and Lunchables, thanked Spellings for being on the show, and handed her an apple she later smoothly attempted to give back to him for some added nutrition (the Lunchables and CapriSun folks are pissed).
Asked about NCLB's alleged curriculum-narrowing, Spellings responded with the usual talking point ("kids need to read to learn social studies"). Asked whether she would want to smite the teachers unions on the head if she were Education God for a day, Spellings smirked and paused -- and then perhaps sensing that she was on the verge of pulling a Rod Paige -- said "kidding!" Asked about the student loan scandal, Spellings said it was complex or something like that and Stewart -- clearly knowing and caring little about the topic -- let it pass.here.]
Over all, it was a harmless exercise, neither particularly humorous nor scathing. Stewart treated Spellings with a combination of kid gloves and that mystified air that most folks display when talking about education (why is it so hard, what is the problem, etc.) Spellings did fine.
It seems a little frivolous, given her current circumstances. I mean, shouldn't she be hanging out close to home, fixing student loans and Reading First instead of indulging herself? But then again, Stewart will probably fall for the charm like everyone else does. That woman can do no wrong when it comes to charming the press.
Now that Wolfowitz is out at the World Bank, and Gonzalez seems poised for his own departure from Justice, it might seem logical that Spellings would be next. And, to some, her departure would be an appropriate result given the current spate of scandals plaguing the Education Department.
However, there are a number of reasons why Spellings won't get canned, for practical, political, and other reasons. For starters, the Democratic lust for blood is likely to be sated somewhat by the Wolfowitz and Gonzalez departures. Ditto for the media. No lawmaker has taken the lead on the Spellings issue -- out of fear of Kennedy and Miller or insufficient evidence of harm. Kennedy hasn't even scheduled a hearing.
Then there's the fact that the two main victim/accusers in the Reading First situation (Doherty and Slavin) are both somewhat unsympathetic characters. Doherty apparently lied about his wife's working for a DI company. Slavin has been a remarkably successful proponent of SFA for at least a decade.
Last but not least, the evidence is still thin and our tolerance is high. A revolving door between the USDE and the loan industry? Sure. Poor oversight of major programs? OK. But we're used to all that at this point, given Iraq and New Orleans. Financial gain for Bush friends? Yeah.
The Gonzalez echoes continue today with the accusation that Education officials may have used unofficial email addresses to communicate about Reading First, just like it was said White House and Department of Justice officials might have done about firing those poor attorneys. In that case, officials were accused of using their Republican National Committee email addresses, in part to avoid having their communications stored on government computers or available to groups that wanted to FOIA the communication.
Maybe the RNC email system just works better? And what about personal preference? I mean, I like Gmail, but some folks like AOL or Earthlink.
UPDATE: Group Wants Probe of Education E-Mails
A private watchdog group asked the Education Department's inspector general on Wednesday to investigate the possible improper use of private e-mail accounts to conduct official department business.
In a letter from EdSec Spellings sent the day after she appeared in front of the House education committee, Spellings urges the committee leaders to...get back to work on NCLB?
"I acknowledge your committee’s oversight function. I look forward to answering your questions and those of other members, and to meeting with any members who would like to discuss these matters in further detail...I am hopeful that the pursuit of oversight will not delay moving forward legislatively on these two important laws."
Full text below.
While others may insist on praising her performance for a little while longer, at least the NYT editorial page has joined the fray in pointing out that Spellings' "it's not my fault" excuse is neither satisfying nor particularly plausible.