Comments on ‘Top-Down’ Comments

September 23, 2008 1 min read

My post on the “top-down” nature of the debate over the NCLB politics has drawn more comments than usual. While I often respond to commenters in private, I think three of these deserve a response.

1.) Michael Dannenberg—the one who planted the seed for the “top-down” post—clarifies that he counts big-city superintendents as part of the hierarchy that supports NCLB. Yes, that’s true (see here). I thought of that about an hour after I posted the item. Maybe the whole thing could be clarified by saying that the closer a person is to the top of the policymaking apparatus, the more likely he or she is to support NCLB. (The converse would be true, too.) Thinking about the debate as a continuum helps explain that why some state superintendents and some local ones love the law, while others on the state and local level don’t.

2.) Commenter Allen asks me “to rethink” my hypothesis based on the “crushing, bipartisan” votes for NCLB in both the House and Senate. I don’t think I need to. Those vote totals are almost seven years old. Back then, many Republicans voted for NCLB as an expression of support for their first-year president; Democrats sided with the president based on a promise that the money would be there. And both sides acted in the spirit of bipartisanship that emerged after the 9/11 attacks. Today, many Republicans and Democrats would change their votes.

3.) What I’m most interested in thinking about now is what the politics of NCLB will be like in the future. Commenter John Thompson suggests that the next version should “keep the best of NCLB.” He specifically mentions the disaggregation of test scores. Others would want to maintain annual testing, continue to focus on a certain goal, and keep the focus on mathematics and reading. Will there be a consensus around those issues? Will there be others that emerge?

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.