Leadership Symposium Early Bird Deadline Approaching | Join K-12 leaders nationwide for three days of empowering strategies, networking, and inspiration! Discounted pricing ends March 1. Register today.
School & District Management

David Brooks’ Crush on Obama’s Education Agenda

June 04, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

David Brooks’ column today in the New York Times is stirring up a lot of commentary in the education blogosphere and Twitterverse.

I first saw Alexander Russo’s tweet questioning whether we can trust that 23 states have changed laws in pursuit of Race to the Top dollars, as Brooks reports in his admiring piece on the Obama administration’s education reform strategies. Naturally, his question piqued my curiosity.

After reading the whole piece, though, two other assertions Brooks makes really jumped off the screen.

This one first:

Over the past decades, federal education policy has veered between the incredibly intrusive to the appallingly supine. The Obama administration, however, has used federal power to incite reform, without dictating it from the top."

I know more than a few state schools chiefs and local superintendents (and members of Congress, too) who would argue vigorously with that statement I highlighted in bold, especially when it comes to the four required models of school turnaround that educators must follow in order to receive a piece of the $3.5 billion in Title I school improvement grant money. Those models for turnaround are also mandated in the rules of Race to the Top and the administration is seeking to make them part of a renewed ESEA law.

Which brings me to the second Brooks assertion:

Fifth, the administration is opening the door for more fundamental reform. Andy Smarick of the American Enterprise Institute and others have piled up data showing that it's nearly impossible to turn around failing schools. Once mediocrity infects a school culture, it's nearly always best to simply replace the existing school with another. The administration has a program called School Improvement Grants, which is helping a few remarkable local reformers, like Joel Klein of New York City, to close miserable schools and put new ones in their place."

Ok, let’s walk through this one more carefully. Smarick, as Brooks rightly points out, is a major skeptic when it comes to the notion that chronically failing schools can be fixed without completing starting over. But Brooks goes on to portray the Obama administration’s school improvement grant program as existing to shut down bad schools and open new ones. That’s partially true, but he ignores the three other, less drastic options that the program outlines for improving schools, and more importantly, the larger reality that very few school district leaders (Joel Klein being a major exception) are likely to opt for the closure model.

Let me also point you to Linda Perlstein’s post on her EWA blog about quibbles she has with Brooks’ column.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
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.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Restorative Practices Don’t Just Belong in the Classroom. Leaders Should Use Them, Too
Respectful conflict resolution, starting meetings with a talking circle, and other ways this administrator is walking the walk.
Sonja Gedde
5 min read
A team of colleagues comes to a resolution in a conceptual illustration about building bridges
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management Electric Buses Hit Some Road Bumps, But They're Still Catching On
The number of electric school buses is rising—and there’s no shortage of growing pains involving funding, legal mandates, and operations.
8 min read
Yellow electric school bus plugged in at a charging station.
Thomas W Farlow/iStock/Getty
School & District Management This State Created a Retention System for Principals. Here’s Why It Worked
Missouri has deepened the support it offers to new principals through a partly federally funded, two-year mentoring program.
6 min read
Photos of principals walking in school hallway.
E+ / Getty
School & District Management Opinion 5 Reasons Why Education Leaders Avoid Controversial Topics
Understanding why we shy away from challenging conversations can be a path toward empathy and an opportunity for learning.
4 min read
Let's brainstorm!
Created on Canva