Statement from The Education Trust on Armstrong Williams incident
(Washington, DC) The U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) decision to pay a journalist to hype the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was bad judgment and a misuse of funds. The money could have been more properly and effectively used to support the efforts of community-based organizations to foster greater parental involvement in public education. Worse still, USDOE has had the audacity to defend its bad decision instead of simply admitting the mistake and moving on to the important business of addressing the many shortcomings of its NCLB implementation efforts – not the least of which is its failure to work to ensure that every child is taught by a highly qualified teacher.
The parent information and parent involvement provisions of NCLB – the result of a bipartisan commitment to parents having the tools needed to be full partners in their childrens education – have, like the teacher quality provisions of the Act, been largely ignored by the USDOE. Instead of buying off pundits, the Education Department could have used the money to ensure that more parents were made aware of their expanded rights under the law. Among the most important of these new parent rights is the right to know whether or not their child is being taught by a teacher with mastery of his or her subject area.
The Armstrong Williams incident appears to be part of a larger pattern of ill-advised media strategies infecting a number of federal agencies. This incident represents a misuse and waste of scarce resources, including the public trust. The real shame is that NCLB could win strong public support on its merits, if only the Education Department would carry out the mandates of the law rather than focusing its time, effort and resources on tawdry PR tricks.
The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.