It's hard to write about anything other than national electoral politics tonight. I'm an absolute political junkie and whatever happens tomorrow night, it'll be one for the ages.
I was waiting amidst the thousands in downtown Austin four years ago for an acceptance or concession for candidate Bush-- not because I wanted him to win (I didn't) but because I wanted to witness history. Instead, I waited until 3am (in the rain) for a 30-second speech by Donald Evans. I didn't think any election night could be as crazy as that-- until now. This one could get even crazier. There are currently 33 different scenarios (amongst the dozen or so battleground states still in play) that could result in a 269-269 tie (which would then result in a decision by the House of Representatives). And if it should go to the Supreme Court due to legal challenges, there's no assurance that Chief Justice Rehnquist will be physically able to show up to vote. Unbelievable.
But back to education... A quick word on future possibilities for Secretary of Education. If Bush wins, it is widely rumored that Rod Paige, who is 71 and, according to Robert Novak at least, was not at all comfortable with NCLB
, will resign and be replaced by Margaret Spellings. (Ed note: In the Novak article she is referred to as Margaret LaMontagne. She was married sometime in the last year or two and took her husband's name.) So who is she? According to that editorial by Novak, she's much more moderate than Paige and may have -- wonder of wonders -- softened up NCLB a little bit as it neared passage. (I'd hate to think what it would have been like without her.)
Here's a live online chat
with her from late September. There are some really bizarre, rambling questions, but here's one particularly interesting question from an NCLB supporter with some deep reservations:
Randy, from Pennsylvania writes:
I am a supporter of George Bush, and I am an educator. The one concern I have with his re-election is NCLB. The fact that he holds special education students and certain other classifications of students at the same accountability level as main stream students is disturbing.
Will he change components of NCLB to make obtaining goals more realistic? Apparently the ones making this legislation have never taught, or have never taken the tests they are requiring students to. The idea that we have to prepare special education students to be able to achieve at a four year college level is unrealistic. Some children, no matter how hard you try, want to be left behind. There is no way any school will ever meet 100 achievement, I'll bet my house on it. Every school will eventually fail, under the stipulations of NCLB, and children will be left behind. I am all for accountability, and all the teachers I work with feel the same, however I think this is more about making education a private entity.
The President has great faith in our schools and educators that these goals can be met and they are proving it everyday. In every state we are seeing improvement in closing the achievement gap and in reducing the number of schools needing improving -- every state is making progress under NCLB.
No Child Left Behind, while it does hold states accountable for the education of special education students, provides ways to meet this goal in a reasonable way. As you know, the assessment of special ed students is governed largely by ARD committees. NCLB recognizes that different assessment systems will need to be developed for students who are not working at grade level and are classified as special ed. Further, the law allows states to get credit for making continuous progress with these students under the safe harbor provision in the law. Finally, states proscribe the standards and assessments that are used to measure regular and special ed students. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify these points.
Doesn't look like she clarified much to me. This is still the number one problem with NCLB. Very few schools can achieve 100% passing rates. Ever. I was excited to see a high level Bush adviser asked about this, but she dodged it. Surprise, surprise.
I've searched for a while now and can't find any articles profiling Spellings. Anybody know of one?
I'll come back later and look at some of Kerry's possibilities for Education Secretary, and then, after the final election results (which should be compiled sometime around, oh, mid-December -- right?), I'll do some more analysis of other candidates for the next Secretary of Education.