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Virginia’s NCLB Waiver Is an Embarrassment

The criticism of the HBO series The Newsroom is that there’s too much talking.  Right.  And not enough shooting, I guess? 

Personally, I love the talking.   And I love Jeff Danielson as Will McAvoy, a Soledad O’Brien - type news anchor despite his claim of being a Republican.  I also love Sam Waterston as the hard-drinking head of the news division for the cable news network and Jane Fonda as the right wing owner of the network.

Newsrooms_Will_McAvoyIn one of the final episodes the news department is angling to host one of the Republican debates.  Things look positive until Will et. al. show the Republican leadership the format they would like to use – a format that actually requires the candidates to answer questions and follow-ups about real issues and defend their points of view.  Of course, this is the last thing the party wants, and the network loses the opportunity to host the debate.  Later we see a clip from an actual debate in which Michele Bachmann answers the question about whether she prefers Elvis or Johnny Cash. 

The episode reminded me of Eduwonk’s  proposed presidential debate questions regarding education – questions, of course, that will never be actually asked nor answered. 

For President Obama (paraphrasing):  The Department of Education gave Virginia a waiver for NCLB, but instead of instituting changes that would improve learning for all students, Virginia established lower achievement Soledad-OBrien- standards for some students based on race and family income.  Is this what you had in mind?  Please explain.

For Governor Romney (again paraphrasing):  You’ve said that states should have more flexibility in education.  Check out Virginia.  Are low expectations based on race and income OK with you?  Defend your answer.

In the meantime, with school about to open here in Virginia, I’m wondering if kindergarten classrooms will start with the teacher saying, “Welcome to your first day of school, boys and girls.  Asian students, I’m expecting you to do very well this year (unless you are poor).  White students, you’ll do well too, although not so well as your Asian friends (unless you are poor).  Black students and Latino students – good luck.  Only about half of you will meet school standards in reading and math.  And if you are poor as well, all bets are off.  I know we’ll have fun in kindergarten!”

Virginia’s performance standards are impossible to defend either at the state or federal level.  Is there any chance that Ms. O’Brien will be asking questions at the presidential debates?



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