Like Many Before Him, Trump Mistakes School Reform for School Improvement
Rather than setting a new education agenda, the Trump administration is repeating the mistake of its predecessors. The administration promises to improve education through innovative reform while ignoring the basic building blocks of education: teachers and funding. The specifics are new—charter schools and voucher expansion—but are little more than additions to a long line of gambles. President Bush bet on standardized testing and accountability. President Obama pushed the Common Core and statistical teacher evaluations.
Each of these reforms damaged schools in their own unique way. The No Child Left Behind Act narrowed the curriculum, led to test score manipulation, and authorized punitive sanctions. NCLB also fueled the narrative of a failing public education system, undermining the commitment to public education itself.
Secretary Arne Duncan used states’ failure under NCLB to demand Common Core standards and new teacher evaluation systems. That shift brought chaos with no payoff for students. Teachers and parents in several states quickly sued to block these policies. Claims of federal overreach eventually led Congress to scrap the NCLB, Common Core standards, and teacher evaluations, replacing them yet again with another scheme—the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The Trump administration’s expansive agenda for charters and vouchers threatens to be just as disruptive. School choice has its value but is no more a silver bullet solution than standardized testing. School choice will prove even more dangerous if not accompanied by common sense limits. The last few years offer numerous examples of how unregulated choice opens the door to segregation, profiteering, incompetence and marginal educational opportunities.
Debating the merits of these federal reforms, however, distracts public attention from the simple things that we Education Law Prof Blog: