Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states.


Caroline Kennedy and NCLB

By Alyson Klein — December 29, 2008 2 min read

If appointed to the Senate, Caroline Kennedy has said she would like to be involved in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, which her uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, helped to champion, according to a story that ran this weekend in the New York Times.

In case you hadn’t heard, Kennedy is hoping to take over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat, if, as expected, Clinton becomes President-elect Obama’s Secretary of State.

In their story, The Times reporters who interviewed her seem to think that she dodged questions about teacher tenure and merit pay, but reading over the transcript of their interview, she sounds to me like basically any other Democrat in Washington these days as they try to navigate those sticky subjects.

The Times reporters asked Kennedy what she thought of DC chancellor Michelle Rhee’s plan to offer teachers the opportunity to earn more money in exchange for giving up tenure. Here was her response:

CK: I think it has to be done, you know, collaboratively with the teachers and with the union. I think here the school-wide bonuses that we gave, here, that we’ve done with the union and the city — I mean, that is, I think, a good model. There’ve been — Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education, incoming, has worked with the union and I think that the reform efforts that they’ve made over time will yield benefits in terms of student achievements. So if you just pick out the most controversial one as a stand-alone thing, you know, I don’t think that’s really the way to go about this. I think if people can vote it’ll be really interesting to see what happens. I think there’s a lot of experimentation going on around the country that we should pay attention to. But here, I think these bonuses that are shared schoolwide give everyone in the leadership team incentive in the school to work together to raise the kids’, you know, achievement, and I think that’s going to be an interesting thing to see how that works. And the schools, you know, have almost all signed up for it.

And on NCLB, Kennedy said, “I think there’s also a lot of problems with test scores, and so, you know, I think we need to give the schools the flexibility. There’s too much reliance on these, you know, NAEP tests.”

Sounds to me like she’s taking her cues from Obama on testing generally - but I wish The Times reporters had pressed her a bit on her take on NAEP.

Students have to take the NAEP tests, but states aren’t held accountable for the results, at all, just for how they do on their own exams. So it’s hard to say that the law relies too much on the NAEP results. The law doesn’t seem to rely on them at all - to the chagrin of a lot of folks in the education reform camp who say many state tests aren’t nearly as rigorous as NAEP.

President Bush and Secretary Spellings have cited rising scores on some NAEP tests in defending the NCLB law, though many question their conclusion that NCLB is a major factor in those gains. Maybe Kennedy’s saying that standardized tests, including the NAEP, don’t provide an accurate picture of student achievement? Or maybe she just doesn’t understand the relatively limited role of NAEP tests in the law.

Kennedy was also asked about her role in coming to work in the New York Department of Education under Chancellor Joel Klein. It sounds like Bill Gates asked her to stay on and help oversee how a grant his foundation financed for the city school system.

Still, Kennedy’s ties to Klein may not win her many supporters among teachers unions, who have sometimes clashed with the chancellor. That could be viewed as a point of contrast with the woman Kennedy is seeking to replace. Hillary Clinton, appears to have a warm relationship with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which endorsed her in the primary.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read