[T]he hallmark of the modern education reformer is a policy of top-down, authoritarian reform. Scott Walker is taking the same exact approach that various school reformers have taken across the country, from Michelle Rhee to Chris Christie. The difference is that Walker is presiding over a united state government, whereas Rhee was only a chancellor of the D.C. schools and Christie has a divided state government.
In another post, he discusses how prominent Democrats paved the way for Walker.
[Michelle] Rhee didn’t bother trying to work with teachers, unions, or parent groups. Her approach to school reform was top-down and authoritarian. In 2008 Rhee said that “Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-building are way overrated.” . . .
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a Democrat appointed by a Democratic president, is a fierce advocate of school choice, Teach for America, merit pay, and other fashionable reforms. His program, Race to the Top, rewards reformers like Bersin, Rhee, and others who make radical changes to the system. Like No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top is a program aimed at accountability. But advocates of accountability have never specified what they’d like to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable to – insisting instead that test scores are a good enough metric by which to gauge the success or failure of schools and American students. There are deep flaws with these assumptions and with their prescribed remedies. . . .
Democrats, the media, and these large foundations have all played a roll in the fight against teachers’ unions and the place of traditional public school in society. This has played nicely into the hands of Republicans like Scott Walker and Chris Christie and other GOP politicians at the state and national level who have long gunned for teachers’ unions and for a break-up of the public school ‘monopoly’. Indeed, the demonization of teachers plays a central part in the modern school-reform movement. . . .
The accountability movement has shifted the focus away from American ingenuity and creativity in favor of strict testing regimes in an attempt to compete with Japan and Finland. This is the wrong approach. . . . If anything, we should be looking for ways to make education more creative and diverse, and to make American students more well-rounded and independent. The current reforms achieve just the opposite.
Kain is a former conservative/libertarian, trending leftward, who seems to be genuinely wrestling with the difficult issues posed by educational policy. I’m looking forward to seeing where his thinking goes.