Major concerns about Obama’s education Blueprint

The points below are summarized from an excellent analysis by the United Church of Christ Witness and Justice Ministries:

What are some concerns about the Blueprint?

  • Requires extremely punitive, unproven interventions for 5 percent of public schools that have been unable over time to raise their test scores.
  • Relies on competitive grants,
    which means that millions of at-risk children will become “losers” in
    the race for federal funds. ESEA was originally designed as extra
    support for such children, and was distributed by a formula to assure
    that the neediest children received the most benefit. The new plan
    perverts this mission for the purpose of institutionalizing
    privatization of our public schools.
  • Blames school teachers.
    Because the Blueprint, like NCLB, fails to address massive resource
    inequality across public schools, it shifts the burden of school reform
    once again onto the backs of school teachers who are expected somehow
    to compensate for society’s structural injustices. The Blueprint also
    bases teacher evaluation in significant part on student growth on
    standardized test scores, a merit-pay scheme, though it acknowledges
    that classroom observations and other unspecified factors perhaps
    should be considered as well.
  • Continues to rely heavily on the worst kind of standardized testing.
    Although the Blueprint proposes to improve tests by adding growth
    models and creating immediate feedback after standardized tests are
    administered to help teachers with instruction, no one yet has found a
    workable way to implement these good suggestions. Rather than use
    multiple measures (multiple sources of different types of evidence of
    student learning) promoted by hundreds of civil rights, education, and
    religious groups nationwide, the Blueprint relies on standardized tests
    which are neither intended nor designed to be the sole measurement of a
    child’s learning. These tests have led to a narrowing of the curriculum
    to the specific areas on the test. Unfortunately, the Blueprint seeks
    to re-broaden school curriculum by encouraging states to create similar
    tests in the arts, the social sciences, and the humanities.
  • Relies too heavily on charterization and school privatization.
    The largest study of charter school quality, a study conducted at
    Stanford University, found that the majority of charter schools do not
    match in quality their surrounding public schools. Many have raised
    concerns about whether all children have equal access to admission in
    charter schools, and whether children with a range of special needs are
    accepted or find appropriate programs in charter schools. Charter
    schools lack transparency in Illinois and other states; one positive
    proposal in the Blueprint is that charter and other autonomous schools
    must be subject to the same accountability systems as traditional
    public schools.
  • Does not significantly expand opportunity to learn.
    The President’s proposal pays mere lip service to the need to address
    enormous disparities in resources. The proposal includes only one of
    the steps we have proposed to expand resource opportunity: that “states
    be asked to measure and report on resource disparities and develop a
    plan to tackle them.” However, in a Blueprint filled with carrots and
    sticks, there appear to be no consequences for states that ignore this

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.