Secretary Spellings -- Education's Very Own Oprah

It's understandable that lots of news organizations would think of recapping Secty Spellings' first year in office -- it happens all the time, and it's a slow news time for education reporters.

But the press seems to be lavishing praise on Spellings, as if she saved – not eviscerated – NCLB. This praise is of course driving the lefty bloggers crazy, since they don’t want anyone praised for "saving" a law as bad as NCLB is.

Me, I just think it’s sad that she’s getting such creampuff media attention (it's embarassing) -- and predictable, knee-jerk opposition. It wasn't that good a year. In fact, Spellings might have done more damage than good to the law and to school reform in general.

And there's no getting around the fact that during the past year she's flip-flopped on NCLB more than Oprah has on James Frey.


I don’t care that she’s funny, or likeable, or more hip than stodgy old Rod Paige. (It's not hard.) I certainly don’t care that she had her babies without an epidural, or was a single mom before she married a lawyer nearly 20 years older than her. I’m not even sure I care that she’s got her kids in public school. I’m pretty sure I don’t care that she’s a woman.

What I do care about is how well she's done her job. And by that measure, I'm not so sure. Spellings pretty much gave away the farm this past year – over-reacting to what I think was exaggerated negative press about NCLB when other paths were available.

The wisdom of the move is arguable. That she's flip-flopped is hard to dispute. After nearly three years standing tough on NCLB from behind the scenes, as Secretary she's in the process of gutting it: an extra year for teachers – but not aides – to become high qualified, with little or no quality control on what HQ means or where qualified teachers teach.Exemptions galore for big urban districts that want to provide their own tutoring, whether or not they’re providing any meaningful choice. A vague growth model for states that want to try it. Easy signoffs on state plans that contain an ever-increasing number of statistical and bureaucratic loopholes for calculating AYP and dumbing-down profiency. A special deal for Texas on special education exclusions.

No, lukewarm quotes from Connecticut and Utah lawmakers just isn’t worth what she’s done to the law. Those guys were embarassing themselves and running out of steam before she blinked. It's especially disheartening that she's getting so little back from the states and districts in exchange for helping them out. Then there’s the bizarre, strident handling of the gay rabbits on PBS that everyone seems to have forgotten. Anyone asked her about Brokeback Mountain recently?


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