The complainers aren't the problem

The complainers aren't the problem

by digby

I don't follow education policy all that closely (you can't follow them all) but I know a lot of people who do. And one of them brought this to my attention:
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a group of state schools superintendents Friday that he found it “fascinating” that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”

Yes, he really said that. But he has said similar things before. What, exactly, is he talking about?

In his cheerleading for the controversial Common Core State Standards — which were approved by 45 states and the District of Columbia and are now being implemented across the country (though some states are reconsidering) — Duncan has repeatedly noted that the standards and the standardized testing that goes along with them are more difficult than students in most states have confronted.

The Common Core was designed to elevate teaching and learning. Supporters say it does that; critics say it doesn’t and that some of the standards, especially for young children, are not developmentally appropriate. Whichever side you fall on regarding the Core’s academic value, there is no question that their implementation in many areas has been miserable — so miserable that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a Core supporter, recently compared it to another particularly troubled rollout:
You think the Obamacare implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse.
I'm not taking a position on Common Core because, as I said,  I just haven't educated myself about it. But I do know that it's very politically contentious with the usual partisan divisions dictating at least some of the terms of the controversy. So, i's to be expected that there would be a strong pushback. But unfortunately, it also seems to be failing at the implementation level, which is very disappointing. Nobody expects perfection and it's impossible anyway. But it's important not to flub highly contested government projects to every extent possible and not blame the people when they complain about the result. It's not as if the other side will give you the benefit of the doubt.

These are complicated projects and I don't think it's fair to expect them to roll out completely smoothly. (In the case of healthcare it's ridiculously over complicated and that's part of the problem.) But I keep getting the feeling that nobody seriously gamed out the possibility that these new programs might not work all that well in the beginning and would cause a huge backlash because of it. Duncan's insult sort of betrays that fact and the way the administration seems to have been caught flatfooted with the website does too. Maybe these folks ought to remember that they are in politics not high tech and they need to think through how to properly explain to people exactly what they are getting so they can maintain support when it takes time to implement properly.

This healthcare rollout isn't just a technical failure, although it is that. There shold have been education campaigns and back-up plans in place.(And yes, I know they were sabotaged by the GOP, which didn't make any of that easier.)In the end the real failure here was the political failure to anticipate what would happen if their kludgey new systems didn't work flawlessly.