School Choice Missing In Obama Address
Lindsey Burke /
Students and teachers at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School began the school year with the ultimate back-to-school pep rally on Tuesday. President Obama delivered a speech to students at the highly-ranked Philadelphia magnet school, which was named a 2010 national “Blue Ribbon School.”
Last year, the president delivered a back-to-school speech about the importance of staying in school and the merits of education, topics he reprised in this year’s address. Last year’s protocol included a letter from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to schools nationwide, complete with lesson plans for teachers. Of course, the lesson plans created a firestorm of backlash from critics, and we haven’t seen a repeat this year.
Even absent federally-crafted lesson plans, however, the Obama administration’s larger plans for reshaping the country’s education system are worrisome. In fact, if the administration has its way, schools across the country will soon be required to teach according to a set of national education standards and tests.
National standards and tests would be a significant federal overreach into states’ educational decision-making authority. But through the administration’s $4.35 million “Race to the Top” competitive grant program, which provided grants to 11 states and the District of Columbia to implement prescribed education reforms, states have already begun adopting national standards.
To be in contention for a Race to the Top grant, states had to indicate that they would move toward adopting national standards and tests. And with most states facing severe budget shortfalls, the chance to win hundreds of millions of dollars in new grant money was enough for many to sign on to the proposal. (more…)