July 2, 2007

Wash Post's Julio Lugo Editorialists

The Washington Post continues its Julio Lugo-like 0-fer streak in accurately and insightfully reporting on education policy with its editorial today, “’No Child’ in the Crosshairs.”

The piece is a mish-mash of straw men, red herrings, and revisionist history – all rolled into one nonsensical editorial defending the No Child Left Behind Act.

First the straw man. The very first paragraph ends with this nugget, “With the law up for reauthorization this year, Congress should be debating how -- not whether -- to continue this landmark education initiative.” No one in Congress is seriously advocating that NCLB should not be reauthorized. Even the core group of conservatives that introduced the A+ Act did so for message and negotiating purposes. If the Post has a story about this congressional “debate” over whether to even authorize NCLB, it should publish it, and not just reference it in an editorial.

Next is the recent criticism of the law by former Bush administration education officials such as Gene Hickok, which the Post calls “attacks” on the law. Hickok has expressed regret and second thoughts about NCLB. If this constitutes an “attack” I can only imagine what the Post made of the NEA’s now-dismissed federal lawsuit against the law. Nuclear war?

But the capper has to be the Post’s assertion that standards-based reform and education accountability were invented by NCLB. Says the Post editorial in conclusion, “Consider the landscape before No Child Left Behind. No one was really focused on results, failure had no consequences, few people were talking about the achievement gap and parents had little choice if their child's schooling wasn't doing the job…To let states opt out of doing the hard, necessary work of raising standards is to turn back the clock on education reform.” Is the 15th Street crew unaware of state leadership in education reforms? Even those that have occurred in the Post’s own backyard? Virginia’s Standards of Learning (SOLs)? Maryland’s “MSPAP” (Maryland School Performance Assessment Program)? Those are just two state reforms that targeted student performance, the achievement gap, and school accountability. And we haven’t even referenced North Carolina’s school improvement work, Kentucky’s landmark “CATS” reforms, or Texas’ “TAAS.”

Indeed, contrary to the Post’s editorial most states were focused on results and were implementing consequences for performance before 2001. With or without NCLB, states will continue to do the hard work of improving public education. Just as they did pre-NCLB and as they will do long after NCLB.