Education Reform

Biden Chooses Ex-Obama Official for Key Position in Department of Education

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During the Obama administration, Roberto Rodriguez was the White House advisor on education. He vigorously supported the Race to the Top program, the Common Core standards, and high-stakes testing. All of these initiatives failed to improve student test scores and wasted billions of dollars.

Andrew Ujifusa wrote in Education Week (April 28) about the return of Rodriguez. He joins former Obama official Carmel Martin, another zealous advocate of those failed policies. Basically, they are switching places, with Rodriguez taking the job that Martin held, and Martin moving into the slot previously occupied by Martin. There is no indication that either has modified their support for the Bush-Obama bipartisan agenda.

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate Roberto Rodriguez, one of former President Barack Obama’s top education advisers, to lead one of the most important divisions of the U.S. Department of Education.

Biden wants Rodriguez to lead the Education Department’s office of planning, evaluation and policy development. Rodriguez, a former special assistant to Obama on education policy who also previously worked in the Senate, is currently the president and CEO of Teach Plus, a teacher-advocacy organization.

The office Rodriguez would lead, if confirmed, has played a significant part in past presidential administrations. For example, Carmel Martin, who oversaw the development of the Race to the Top competition and the expansion of School Improvement Grants in the early part of the Obama administration, led the office. Under former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the office was led by Jim Blew, who came to the department after many years of working to promote school choice.

As a deputy assistant to Obama, Rodriguez played a major role in developing and advocating for the president’s K-12 policy priorities.

Rodriguez defended Race to the Top in a 2012 Education Week article, saying that it was sparking major shifts for schools, such as the adoption of the Common Core State Standards. Both Race to the Top and the standards, of course, became controversial as time went on, and attracted criticism from Democrats as well as Republicans.

It would be gratifying to hear either or both explain why they the multi-billion Race to the Top failed, why Common Core had no impact (yet cost hundreds of millions) to implement, whether they have changed their views about VAM (evaluating teachers by student test scores) and charter schools.

It appears that Rodriguez and Carmel Martin will make policy, not Secretary Cardona or Deputy Secretary-designate Cindy Martens.

Biden is looking to the future with his sweeping domestic policy plans. But in education, he is looking in the rear-view mirror to the architects of Obama’s failed programs.

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