We seek “intellectual honesty and complete openness in reporting academic progress and ‘the state’ of public education…”  Policy Foundation, 1998, Murphy Commission project.


(April 2012) Public school administrators oftentimes seem oblivious to a 21st century economic reality: their consumer base includes businesses and entrepreneurs trying to compete in a global economy where standards rule.

The Arkansas Department of Education’s application earlier this year for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act is the latest scene in a multi-decade play best described as bad theatre, though reviewers might disagree whether the spectacle is more tragedy or farce.  ‘Tragedy’ underscores the human cost: Arkansas students denied an education that gives them the means to fully participate in the economy. ‘Farce’ is descriptive of any educational policy that claims progress as a goal while pursuing a policy best understood as a flight from accountability.

Global markets hold economic agents accountable.  Administrators seeking “to emphasize student growth and progress using multiple measures rather than just test scores” seek the opposite: escape from economic reality.

One glimpse of economic reality: Arkansas payroll employment, the broadest indicator has declined by 35,100 jobs since January 2007.1

Administrators should not be surprised that businesses and parents with a stake in Arkansas’ public education are skeptical of the claim the waiver is about “student growth and progress.”  Administrators and the politicians that enable them suffer from a credibility gap. Goals 2000 did not deliver on its promise that American students would lead the world in mathematics.  No Child Left Behind required modest accountability, which administrators seemingly oblivious to the global economy seek to avoid with a waiver.

Arkansas cannot compete in a global economy without a flight to accountability and high educational standards.

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics