Barnes actually claimed that the Obama Race to the Top program is a change from the "cookie cutter" approach to education that No Child Left Behind took.
Stewart didn't agree:
Stewart asked Barnes, who is leaving her post as director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council at the end of the year, what she was most proud of. She singled out the administration’s education policies, both K-12 and higher education, though Stewart steered the converation to the former.
When Barnes said that “we are turning schools around” and that the multi-billion-dollar Race to the Top competition is a paradigm shift away from the “cookie cutter approach” to education than the prescriptive No Child Left Behind, Stewart was clearly not buying it.
“The biggest complaint I hear from teachers, and by teachers I mean my mom... A) Why did you wear that shirt? and B) the teaching to the test. This idea that this Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, these benchmarks that have been given from Washington have caused schools to focus entirely on whatever benchmark or requirement they need to get funding, and it has removed from education the, I guess what you’d call it, the educating.”
How did Barnes respond?
With Orwellian jive:
“That’s what we’re trying to turn around. No Child Left Behind had that cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach to education. And instead what we’ve done through Race to the Top, and most recently because Congress wouldn’t move on reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act and turning it around, we’ve used our flexibility in the executive branch to say, ‘You’ve got some relief if you are going to put in place some smart reforms from those mandates from No Child Left Behind so there’s more flexiblity, there’s more innovation, there’s more creativity so teachers can in fact teach.”
Oh, sure, there's flexibility to teach - so long as you add standardized tests to every subject in every grade and use the scores to evaluate teachers and schools, fire the "bad" teachers and close the "bad" schools.
But otherwise, the system is totally flexible and leaves lots of room for innovation.
Valerie Strauss notes Stewart could have lowered the hammer here on Barnes and called her on her lies, as he once did with Cramer from CNBC, but he chose to go easy on her:
“So your feedback... The feedback I’m getting is that Race to the Top has intensified the issue, not alleviated it, but I guess the people I talk to don’t work in the White House.”It's a shame that Stewart let her off easy.
This was a great opportunity for somebody in the mainstream media, somebody who makes his living exposing political hypocrisy and chicanery, to show that he understands that the Obama administration's claim that Race to the Top and its other education policies are completely different from No Child Left Behind and are alleviating all the federal mandates is horseshit.
Maybe the next time Duncan goes on Stewart's show, Stewart can note how full of shit Duncan was with his pronouncement that 82% of the country's schools are failing and ask him how students, parents, and teachers can trust the administration's metrics on schools and teachers when they can't get the NCLB AYP numbers even close?