ALISON STEWART: We continue our look at the Obama years and his legacy.
Tonight, we focus on a subject that often gets less attention, public education.
Much of what happens in the classroom is decided at the state and local level. But the federal government can also be a big player in some of the most personal issues for families, which is also the focus of our weekly segment Making the Grade.
Throughout most of his term, President Obama and his former education secretary, Arne Duncan, exercised far more power and influence in education than many of their predecessors.
One major focus, a demand for greater student testing tied directly to teacher evaluation and, crucially, federal money for schools. Duncan was essentially the gatekeeper of billion of stimulus money known as Race to the Top.
Districts could qualify if they agreed to meet those criteria. Initially, many states joined in. But, over time, resistance began building to testing, data-driven metrics, and whether teachers were being judged unfairly.
The president himself addressed those concerns.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When we talk about testing, parents worry that it means more teaching to the test. Some worry that tests are culturally biased. Teachers worry that they will be evaluated solely on the basis of a single standardized test. Everybody thinks that’s unfair.
It is unfair. But that’s not what Race to the Top is about. What Race to the Top says is there’s nothing wrong with testing, we just need better tests applied in a way that helps teachers and students, instead of stifling what teachers and students do in the classroom.
ALISON STEWART: It also led to a backlash of state standards known as the Common Core.
JULIA SASS RUBIN, Save Our Schools New Jersey: They’re impacting the kind of education kids are getting, because they’re eating up a lot of introduction time with test preparation and test drilling.