CATO Slams Michelle Rhee’s “Common Core Crud”


H/T to Russ Walsh.

CATO Institute scholar Neal McCluskey takes Michelle Rhee to the woodshed:

I don’t dislike the oft-attacked Michelle Rhee. I don’t even know her. But I do dislike disingenuous or empirically anemic arguments about the Common Core, and she offers too many of both in a new Politico op-ed.

Let’s start with the most aggravating thing she does in her piece: imply that anyone who opposes the Core based on concerns about Washington’s role in it is proffering a “false narrative of a federal takeover” and making “wild claims.” As Core apologists have done repeatedly, Rhee utterly ignores the $4.35-billion Race to the Top program that de facto required Core adoption to compete, and No Child Left Behind waiver rules that locked most states into the Core. She also turns a blind eye to the overall trajectory of federal education policy, which went from decades of mainly providing money, to requirements that states have standards and tests, to now pushing specific standards and tests—and let’s be honest, that ultimately means curricula—on schools.

If Rhee wants to have a substantive debate on the Common Core, great! But we can’t have that if she and other Core supporters refuse to acknowledge basic reality about the federal role, and they essentially smear people who do acknowledge reality as purveyors of “wild claims.”

There is much more that’s dubious about Rhee’s piece, though not as infuriating as the ol’ smear-and-deny.

McCluskey is one of the voices who represent danger to the education reform movement. CATO is a respected conservative-libertarian think tank and unlike Common Core’s supporters, he dares to mention Core in the same breath with high-stakes testing.

Rhee, for instance, ignores the wise counsel delivered last week not to simplistically cherry-pick results on the recent PISA exam to press for national standards. Rigorous analysis needs to be done, controlling for lots of factors ranging from income levels to national culture, to determine the effect of national standards on test results. The problem for Core supporters is that when that is done, national standards appear to make essentially no difference. Rhee also ignores the well-reported research of Brookings’ Tom Loveless, who found that the quality or rigor of state standards has had no correlation with state scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

McCluskey represents the sort of ally that Fordham University professor Nicholas Tampio wrote about this week. I’ve been in some pretty good rows with colleagues when I mention that we occasionally find common ground with Tea Party groups. A school choice advocate, McCluskey is the sort of ally which Tampio is referencing. But McCluskey is still the guy who wrote earlier this year that Common Core was a threat to states, districts and students.  That’s someone I can break bread with.

 

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to CATO Slams Michelle Rhee’s “Common Core Crud”

  1. Great post. I saw Neal McCluskey speak at a “Stop Common Core in New York” event in September. He made excellent points about the trajectory and dangers of federal control of education. He’s an ally in the Common Core fight. America’s political system is all about forming complex alliances.

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