The Brookings Institution’s Michael Hansen has generated five questions he would ask state and national candidates in the upcoming election. You can read his rationale for these questions here. These may or may not be your questions. You can read my thoughts.
- What kind of experiences and attitudes would you look for in appointing a secretary of education?
- Are Title I funds achieving their intended goals, and if not what changes would you promote to change funding formulas?
- Has the sharper focus on transparency in higher education regarding student employment and loan payoff during the Obama administration helped improve students’ chances of upward social and economic mobility?
- What federal education programs would you expand and which would you shrink?
- How much would you expand federal funding for educational research?a
My questions would be more targeted to specific issues that emanate from current federal education policy. These questions would help identify candidates’ evaluation of critical problems e.g. national standards, federal annual testing policy, use of technology in instruction, privatization of education, and protection of civil rights.
There is always a conundrum about asking what is important in education policy. The nuts and bolts have always been hammered out at the state and local levels. The federal government has provided ‘big picture’ goals i.e. access to high quality education for all students. Yet, federal funding drives national initiatives. In this era of outcome assessment and accountability driven policy, federal policies have become ever more prescriptive as if states are unable or unwilling to address all children’s needs. Truth be told, the federal government cannot solve all of the problems either.
The tension between federal and state control is as old as the constitution itself. There is no single correct answer for educational policy questions–just better and less good ones depending on the times. The federal government can inspire and motivate educational policy leaders to find creative and effective strategies to improve the nation’s schools. When federal policy becomes too prescriptive, states push back. It is part of our heritage.
Many of us are pushing for what teaching can and should be, not to achieve higher test scores but for learning strategies that engage students to believe in their own possibilities.