The Thomas B. Fordham Institute appraises the current policy landscape and its main players, and outlines the ideal federal role in K-12 education. In summary, the various education associations, interest groups, experts and think tanks cluster into three major factions:
• The System Defenders. They believe that the public education system is fundamentally
sound but needs additional resources in order to be more effective.
• The Army of the Potomac. This camp has generally sound instincts about reform, but suffers from its boundless faith in Washington's ability to accomplish significant positive change in K-12 education.
• The Local Controllers. They want Uncle Sam, for the most part, to butt out of K-12 education-but to keep sending money to states and districts.
• Fordham favors a fourth approach, which we call Reform Realism.
We believe the federal government should:
• Provide flexible dollars targeted at disadvantaged children. Principals and superintendents, facing the sunshine of transparency around their schools' results, should be free to spend Washington's dollars as they see fit.
• Foster common standards and tests. While asking federal bureaucrats or politicians themselves to set standards and create tests would be perilous, the President could bring governors together and task them with agreeing on what students should know and be able to do in core subjects at various stages of their K-12 schooling.
• Offer cash incentives to states or districts to embark upon promising but politically treacherous reforms. The cleanest way to do this is to enhance the Title I...