Democrats, Don’t Give Up on Education Reform

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg Opinion: In advance of a July 5 forum hosted by the country’s largest teachers’ union, leading Democratic presidential candidates are affirming their commitment to America’s public schools. They’re right to, not least because of the Trump administration’s efforts to cut funding for public education. Unfortunately, rather than promoting effective improvements to the country’s K-12 system, too many Democrats are retreating from them. This is shaping up to be a tragic missed opportunity – and a betrayal of millions of students who are falling behind their peers, at home and abroad. National assessments show that many U.S. students have made little or no progress against standard benchmarks over the last decade, and those in the lowest-performing schools are actually doing worse. Students in the U.S. continue to score below those in many other rich countries on international tests of math, science and reading. There are no simple solutions, but some policies do have a record of success. They include higher, merit-based pay for teachers; stronger accountability for schools that fail to meet expectations on standardized tests; and expanded public-school choice through high-quality charter schools. Embraced by numerous big-city mayors and some states, these reforms received generous federal support during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Districts that have overcome political resistance and stuck with the reform agenda have seen gains in test scores, improvements in teacher quality, and shrinking racial achievement gaps. Yet the momentum of public-school reform has stalled. A backlash against testing among educators and parents has caused politicians in both parties to abandon the goal of setting common, consistently enforced standards. Congress has ceded…

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