US Department of Education's Belated Fake Epiphany

The US Department of Education has had a belated epiphany. After years of using waivers to beat down educators, they've realized it was counter productive and has only served to destroy morale within the profession. USA today reports:

In his first major speech, the acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King apologized to the nation’s teachers.

Speaking to a small group of teachers, students and local politicians here last month, just three weeks after taking over the post, King admitted the USA’s education debate over the past few years has been “characterized by more heat than light,” and that despite reformers’ best intentions, “teachers and principals, at times, have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces.”

King acknowledged the attacks had come from as high up as his own federal agency in Washington, D.C., where he’d served as a top advisor to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan for more than a year.

"All of us — at the local, state, and federal level, the Education Department included — have to take responsibility for the climate that exists," he said. ”There is no question that the contentious tone has made it harder to have productive conversations."

This new outlook is likely less a real epiphany and more a reaction to the removal of dictatorial powers the US Department of Education was wielding when the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law.

ESSA radically reduces the U.S. Department of Education's authority over state curriculum, standards and testing and curtails the secretary of education's authority over state and local policy making. The law states:

Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any other officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school's instructional content or materials, curriculum, program of instruction, academic standards, or academic assessments; teacher, principal, or other school leader evaluation system; specific definition of teacher, principal, or other school leader effectiveness; or teacher, principal, or other school leader professional standards, certification, or licensing.

King has so little influence now that all he is left with is to show respect and do some listening. Something the Department of Education should have been doing all along - instead of listening to the whims of billionaire corporate reformers.