Obama’s Policies Under Fire: Department of Ed Responds

After Anthony Cody* posted “Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies” on his “Living in Dialog” blog,  Justin Hamilton, press secretary to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, asked Anthony if he would correct certain statements he made in his post.  Anthony asked Justin if he would answer some questions for him, to which Mr. Hamilton responded in “Obama’s Policies Under Fire: Department of Ed Responds.”  My comments to Anthony’s post follow.

I believe the entire debate today about ESEA / NCLB / The Blueprint / Ed Reform misses the larger picture. No amount of legislating, procedure writing, or even teaching by dedicated, persistent, highly qualified, highly effective teachers will make students succeed if they are not committed to putting forth their best effort every day, just as any teacher or administrator must do.

Most of today’s discourse concerning educational reform addresses the elements necessary for a student to succeed.  However, it ignores the most critical elements such as a student’s commitment to learning, support from his/her parent(s)/guardian(s), and local societal / communal expectations to succeed.

Mr. Hamilton’s response, Secretary Duncan’s speeches, and even President Obama’s statements ignore these elements / factors.  Until we address these, their grand ideas will fall flat, as most others have to date.  This is not a partisan shot, either.  No one has effectively managed education policy from Washington, D.C., which says something all by itself.

BTW, Mr. Hamilton’s use of “formative assessment” is incorrect.  A formative assessment informs instruction, in what is known as “assessment for learning.”  His references to measuring growth, whether year over year, or month over month, are assessments OF learning, also known as “summative assessments.”  They are NOT formative assessments, however much Mr. Hamilton or the department of ed might wish.

The defensive posture of Mr. Hamilton’s response, with one too many “Secretary Duncan desires / believes” statements, reads like cult propaganda.

We all agree that our education system needs to change to keep pace with our rapidly changing world, however, heavy-handed mandates from a central planning committee are not the way to go. Ensure equitable access exists for all, but let local communities carry out what they deem necessary, not what Washington, D.C. educrats dictate.

* Anthony’s blog, Living in Dialog, is hosted by Education Week.

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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2 Responses to Obama’s Policies Under Fire: Department of Ed Responds

  1. zshiner says:

    Dave: I generally try to stay out of politics discussions, and that is what I’ll do here.

    But I do want to present a different understanding of formative assessment. My sense is that formative assessment informs future decisions. This may mean that teachers revise work for students or that administrates decide on the best way to support teachers (I don’t know what Mr. Hamilton’s plan is, nor do I care to know – just making a point about formative assessment). Assessment for learning definitely falls in the formative assessment category, but I don’t believe that the converse is true – that formative assessment is, by definition, assessment for learning.

    Summative assessment on the other hand is any assessment that the teacher/administrator can’t use to inform future decisions.


  2. Hey Mr. Z. Hope all is well. Nine weeks and counting!

    I believe the validity of any decision made from a formative assessment is inversely related to time. The longer between the formative assessment and any associated, informed decision, the less valid the decision, all other things being equal. So…while I get what you are saying, I still believe it was misused by the ed department, and Mr. Hamilton, specifically in this case.


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