Jeff Bryant: Does The Biden Administration Have A Bean Counter Problem
Jeff Bryant is an independent journalist who covers education. In a recent piece, he looks at the Biden administration’s support for the 2021 standardized test.
Barely a month after President Biden was inaugurated, educators and public school advocates reeled in dismay when his administration announced it would enforce the federal government’s mandate for annual standardized testing in public schools. During the Democratic Party’s presidential primary, Biden had expressed strong opposition to the tests. In a video taken at a December 2019 forum for public school teachers, Biden, when asked, “Will you commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools,” replied, “Yes… You’re preaching to the choir.”
Although the decision was made before he took office, Miguel Cardona, Biden’s secretary of education, confirmed the Biden administration would not allow states to skip the exams.
So what happened to “the choir”?
It’s not like there was a groundswell from across the country to resume the tests.
What happened? Bryant has several thoughts.
One of the congressional Democrats who signed Bowman’s letter to Cardona, Rep. Mark Takano of California, previously gave me an interesting explanation for that.
In 2015, when President Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was such a huge proponent of testing he insisted test scores be used to evaluate teachers, I interviewed Takano, who, like Bowman, had been a public school teacher before being elected to Congress.
When I asked Takano about what he called the federal government’s “test and punish” approach to education policy, he stated that the testing mandate, which began when No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002 but still dominates today, wasn’t “designed for the types of realities in [his] school.”
What do colleagues in Congress say when he tells them this? He told me the problem in Congress is that there are two types of people who tend to dominate Beltway ideology and the philosophy that drives problem-solving.
Most people, he explained, are either from the worlds of business and finance or they’re attorneys. The former, due to their work experiences, tend to be driven by numbers and production outputs, while the latter, due to their advocacy interests, want to remedy societal problems, including those that are obvious in the education system, by “putting into place a law with all these hammers” to make someone accountable for any statistical evidence of injustice and inequality.
There’s much more to Bryant’s article, which is well worth your attention. The full piece can be found here.