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NCLB: Reformers Sit #ESEA Debate Out At Their Own Peril

Where have all the reformers gone? A year ago they were everywhere, pushing to revamp teacher evaluation and end LIFO.  Now when the NCLB debate is heating up it seems like they're nowhere to be found. 


A decade ago when reform-minded education organizations like KIPP and TFA stayed out of the ESEA reauthorization fight, it was curious but not really a surprise.  Nonprofits and reformers didn't really do policy back then, lobbied Congress only infrequently, and considered advocacy to be out of the question.  The outcome wasn't particularly good from a reform perspective, as you may recall.  The original version of NCLB's highly qualified teacher requirement classified TFA corps members as unqualified, which required schools to send a letter out to parents.  TFA had to get the law changed and has had to protect it every year since then against folks like Public Advocates who see the alt cert loophole as, well, a loophole.  As for KIPP, the law's weak restructuring options didn't require districts to create conditions that would have encouraged CMOs like KIPP who were interested in doing turnarounds.  (Ditto for SIG, by the way -- another missed opportunity.)

Maybe they're working behind the scenes, masterfully manipulating the process from their lakeside cabins and remote mountain lairs. Or, more likely, they've been told not to worry, that Team Duncan will take care of everything for them, and have forgotten  that the White House is currently pushing a reform-free Edujobs 2 bill and would sell school reform down the river without blinking an eye if it would look good for Obama next year.  If a bad bill goes through, reformers will spend the next year trying to work out operational fixes and the next decade having to work around it. 


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As I understand it, KIPP doesn't want to do turnarounds and has failed when it has tried.

KIPP was interested in doing turnarounds at one point but districts and -- the point of this post -- federal law never made it very easy for them or other charters to get involved. if they'd been more engaged in the policymaking process maybe they -- and kids at failing schools -- might have benefitted.

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