A decade ago, when federal lawmakers on the left and right came together to design and then enact No Child Left Behind, it solidified what was already a “Washington Consensus” in education policy. Its focus was on narrowing racial achievement gaps, its key strategy was federally enforced accountability, and its mantra was “no excuses.”
Today, that consensus is in tatters, what with the testing backlash, the rediscovery of poverty as a major obstacle to achievement, and the Tea Party’s desire to limit Uncle Sam’s authority over the nation’s schools. For these reasons and more, most pundits have assumed that, for the foreseeable future, ESEA reauthorization is impossible. No path to renewal has been made clear.
Perhaps until now. This week has witnessed the emergence of a new Washington Consensus, apparent in President Obama’s education-obsessed State of the Union address, a bipartisan conference call with key Senate leaders, and a supportive column by the country’s most widely read conservative.