Get Ready

No Child Left Behind is a complicated law and the Obama administraton’s plan to reorganize it will have many many components.

One proposed change has to do with college, sort of. Currently public schools must make “adequate yearly progress” in various subject areas. Under the Obama plan, schools will be measured such that the final outcome is students who are college and career ready. Washington Post columnist George Will thinks this is a little silly:

But how does one fulfill — or know when one has fulfilled — Obama’s goal of “college and career readiness” for every child by 2020? That gauzy goal resembles the 1994 goal that by 2000 (when, Congress dreamily decreed, every school “will be free of drugs and violence”) every child would start school “ready to learn.” Is “college and career readiness” one goal or two? Should everybody go to college? Is a college degree equivalent to career -any career? -readiness?

Will has a point. The reason for public education is, at least in its most basic sense, to prepare Americans for life after public education ends. While in theory college-ready makes more sense than mere progress (however “adequate” it may be), at this point college and career ready look pretty hard for federal policy to appropriately define.

Vagaries and grand goals are not the ingredients that make for successful policies. As Will says, “Doubling down on dubious bets is characteristic of compulsive gamblers and federal education policy.” Let’s see if the Department of Education can find a way to give “college ready” and “career ready” real meaning.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer