Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Decade

First of all, happy new year everyone. Indeed, it's a happy new decade and I hope that everyone finds this decade even better than the last, whatever it was called.

On that note, the New Yorker ran a predictably droll piece in their Talk of the Town section about how the lack of consensus about what to call the previous decade might have been a harbinger for the lack of consensus on a variety of other issues that came before us during the previous ten years. While I'm still not entirely sure what we're going to be calling the last decade, in terms of educational epochs, it was pretty clear.

Without question, the aughts (if that's really what we're going to insist on calling them) were the No Child Left Behind decade. That was the defining feature of education policy as first the law was passed and then more and more states started putting greater and greater emphasis on high stakes student testing. Look around New York or pretty much anywhere else and you see that test scores not only reign supreme, but that many aren't even questioning that testing emphasis is the way it should be. It's just part of the landscape.

I know it's early (4 days out of a total 3650), but I've already got a nominee for what the new decade in education will be: the Race to the Top decade. Clearly that's the big focus right now and with all that money on the line, it's no wonder. Whether or not the focus stays on that one initiative for the next ten years is doubtful. I know I'd bet against it. However, the sentiment summed up by the effort is, I think, going to be here to stay.

In short, Race to the Top is about tweaking the effects of NCLB without fundamentally altering the landscape that it created. We're seeing pushes for national standards and for states increasing their standards and creating more school choice. All of this is what NCLB set out to do, but didn't do that well. In other words, we're still tinkering with the same program, but we're trying to correct the mistakes that were made the first time around.

Part of me can't really imagine that the moniker "Race to the Top Decade" is really going to be sticking around 10 years from today. But if it is, remember that you heard it here first.

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