President Obama introduces the Blueprint to Reform with a letter that recognizes that NCLB is “flawed” and in need of renovation. He makes several points that I really liked reading that seemed to improve on George W. Bush’s plan: for example, in the third paragraph he alludes to the need for an education system that contributes to democracy. In the fifth paragraph, the President advocates for teachers, saying that they deserve more freedom and respect in their profession. Both of these points make the President’s plan seem more user-friendly- in other words, placing a higher emphasis on respect for communities and teachers.
That being said, there were other aspects of the introduction letter that did not seem to be renovations at all, but rather, carry-overs of neoliberal ideas from NCLB. The concept of better education in order to increase our global economic standing , colorblindness, and business involvement are all mentioned. I was curious to begin reading and see how these ideas played out in the actual body of the document.
There is not enough space here to dissect every section in detail, but to summarize, its four targets are: 1) college and career preparation; 2) great teachers/leaders; 3) equal opportunities; 4) raising standards and rewarding excellence; and 5) continuing improvement. Overall, the Blueprint for Reform is based more on reward than on punishment, as NCLB was. The word “grant” and “grantee” are repeated time and again to emphasize these rewards. This sounds positive on the surface, but may end up being another method of control from a distance because in order to get funds, schools will have to conform to what a higher “power” wants of them. I also found myself wondering where the grant money comes from; if private businesses are the answer, then we have yet another reform involving privatization.
Race to the Top is a plan mentioned in the Blueprint that enables the government to distribute ~$4 billion dollars to schools in “states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform” (DoEd website). Again, reward is the main theme here. Based on what we’ve learned thus far, the idea of competition between schools might be problematic because it defeats the purpose of public education, or the “we’re all in this together, guys” mentality. Schools should not be pit against each other, especially when some begin ten feet in front of the starting line while others start ten feet behind it. Social context does not seem to be taken into consideration, thus benefitting the schools that are already achieving.
My feelings on the Blueprint and RTTT are so mixed because I see some aspects that I disagree with, while others that I don’t. After working at the Department of Education for a summer, I know that many employees there really want what’s best for children and are not crazy “rah-rah capitalism” neoliberals. The ones that I worked with believe in the Blueprint’s reforms and its potential for change. However, after taking an outside-of-Washington perspective, it does seem as though Obama’s plans are not the total departure from NCLB that I once thought they were.