Bill Evers

Bill Evers

Bill Evers is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education. He was the U.S. assistant secretary of education for policy from 2007 to 2009. In 2003, Evers served in Iraq as a senior adviser for education to Administrator L. Paul Bremer of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He currently serves on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's California Academic Content Standards Commission.

Here are four reasons to be concerned about Proposition 30:

  1. Californians are taxed enough at present;
  2. Governor Jerry Brown has designed the tax-hike measure as an abhorrent form of political extortion;
  3. Much of the revenues from the tax hike would not go to schools, but to politicians, to spend according to their whims; and, lastly . . .
  4. Money per se is not the problem with the public schools.

California is a state that, deservedly, has a reputation for fiscal imprudence and sleight-of-hand shenanigans. California is the state with the high-cost “bullet train to nowhere,” and it is the state with a $54 million slush fund hidden in the park department’s accounts – kept secret so politicians and bureaucrats could panic voters by threatening park closings.

Taking money from the people during an economic downturn is both unwise and unfair. Yet Prop 30 will be a $50 billion hike in income taxes and sales taxes. California’s tax burden is currently the fourth highest in the country. Increasing that tax burden will have human costs: hobbling job-creation by small business owners, throwing people out of work, and driving people to uproot their lives and leave for other states. If Prop 30 passes, California will have the highest income tax rates and highest sales tax rates in the USA.

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On Tuesday, Nov. 1, a group of parents and taxpayers sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to make the district follow the law, by evaluating teachers based on how much their students have learned. The judge said in effect that, since this suit was a long time in coming, he would allow the district some time to prepare its response. Therefore, the judge decided not to grant a temporary restraining order. At the same time, he re-stated the contentions of the plaintiffs (technically, petitioners) in a way that shows he has a solid grasp of what is at stake in the suit, and he decided that the case would receive expedited consideration.

LAUSD is being sued by a group that includes Alice Callaghan, a member of the Episcopalian clergy and the manager of Las Familias del Pueblo, a community center for the poor and homeless in downtown Los Angeles. Back in 1996, Callaghan organized 70 Spanish-speaking immigrant parents, who boycotted the Ninth Street Elementary School – calling for an end to failed bilingual-education methods and instead demanding that the school system teach the children of immigrant garment workers academic English as soon as possible.

Callaghan and this different group of parents are suing to enforce the Stull Act.  The law goes back four decades and says that the board of trustees of each school district shall evaluate teachers, at least in part, as reasonably measured by their student’s performance on the state’s standards-based tests. The law says “shall,” not “may.” It is mandatory that each district do this.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB300, Oct. 8, which approves the forthcoming national science-curriculum standards and lays out the path for California to put them into effect in 2013.  It is hard to think of something that could be more important than teaching the subject-matter of science well. California and American K-12 students need to learn science content that is the most rigorous in the world, and teachers need to teach K-12 science in the most effective way possible.

If Americans are going to create feats of engineering, invent cutting-edge technologies, make scientific discoveries, and work in a scientific-technological workplace, our students will need a science curriculum with a rigor and effectiveness as good as or better than that of top-performing foreign countries.

The brand-new law says that California’s science standards are to be based on those being created under the auspices of the federal government’s National Research Council (NRC) – but are as yet sight unseen.

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(photo credit: WCN 24/7)


Obama should heed Tocqueville on schools

Alexis de Tocqueville is famous for his portrait of 19th-century America and his philosophic insights on why the American society has flourished — and also where it might go wrong.  It is worth the time to remind ourselves what some of Tocqueville’s insights were. Once we do, we can consider the Obama administration’s current nationalization of K-12 public-school curriculum, with Tocqueville’s insights in mind.

One of Tocqueville’s major insights was that Americans have benefited from popular participation in the large number of churches, charities, clubs, and voluntary associations in our country, as well as in state and local governments, which stand between the individual and the national government in Washington, D.C.

In essence, Tocqueville believed that the civic health of America depended on popular participation in entities like associations to create and maintain religious, private, or charter schools, as well as in local authorities like school districts with fully-empowered schools boards.

Such activity fosters civic virtue and “habits of the heart” and encourages everyday citizens to take on necessary social tasks that in pre-modern society lowly subjects were not allowed to undertake, but were instead the duty of the aristocracy.

When Tocqueville describes nineteenth-century American society he spoke, for example, of township school committees that were deeply rooted in their local communities.  In those days, state control of local public education took the form of an annual report sent by the township committee to the state capital.  There was no national control.

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Are NCLB waivers legal?

Congress is way behind on reauthorizing the basic federal aid to K-12 education law.  This law, now known as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), should have been dealt with in 2007, but Congress has kept funding it, without reauthorizing it.

If Republicans take the White House and the U.S. Senate, what is or is not the law may be changed in a way that moves the federal role in education in a direction that is conservative or libertarian. With an alternative election outcome, the law may move in a more liberal direction. But right now the law is what it is.

Under the Constitution, current officials of the Executive branch – such as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan – are obligated to carry out the law as written. But, instead, Secretary Duncan plans to get rid of the law’s accountability measures, while substituting the Obama administration’s pet education reforms.

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(photo credit: Raúl)

Kyle Olson interviews Bill Evers about the new paper Closing the Door on Innovation.

Q: Some might say that a national curriculum would promote efficiency.  What is your response?

A: The efficiency we should seek in K-12 education should be systemic and be grounded in sound rules and institutions. If we have pluralistic institutions with the right incentives, we will have better learning and more efficient and productive schooling than if we have a uniform and unified national curriculum. Such a uniform curriculum can too easily be bent in some wrongheaded way in the future.  Monolithic national uniformity is inefficient if it cuts off examination of alternatives, readily becomes stagnant, resists feedback, and all too easily becomes captive of future fads and fancies.”

Continue reading this interview of Bill Evers at Big Government

Closing the Door on Innovation

A Critical Response to the Shanker Institute Manifesto and the U.S. Department of Education’s Initiative to Develop a National Curriculum and National Assessments Based on National Standards

( signed by John E. Chubb, David Davenport, Bill Evers, David Henderson, Michael McConnell, Shelby Steele, and Herbert Walberg )

We, the undersigned, representing viewpoints from across the political and educational spectrum, oppose the call for a nationalized curriculum in the Albert Shanker Institute Manifesto “A Call for Common Content.”1 We also oppose the ongoing effort by the U.S. Department of Education to have two federally funded testing consortia develop national curriculum guidelines, national curriculum models, national instructional materials, and national assessments using Common Core’s national standards as a basis for these efforts.2

We agree that our expectations should be high and similar for all children whether they live in Mississippi or Massachusetts, Tennessee or Texas. We also think that curricula should be designed before assessments are developed, not the other way around.

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(photo credit: Cristiano Betta)

By Bill Evers, Kent Talbert, and Robert Eitel

The U.S. Department of Education has, since September of 2010, been financing the work of two testing groups to create a national K-12 curriculum for English and mathematics. But in launching this new initiative, Education Department officials seem to be acting at crosspurposes with existing federal statutes, and, as their initiative becomes better known, it may bring out a multitude of opponents.

The new national curriculum is designed to complement a federally-funded national testing system that will test every public school student in America. Left unchallenged, this federal effort will establish for America a new system of national tests, national academic content standards, and a national curriculum.

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By Doug Lasken and Bill Evers

Students in California public schools are not achieving at the levels they should. Too many students are unprepared for jobs or have to take remedial courses when they start college. In California, we judge student achievement through student scores on statewide tests. These tests assess how much students know about subject-matter content that is specified in an official set of state academic-content standards. Research has long shown that effective teachers are among the best ways to bring up student achievement. But in order to improve teaching effectiveness, it is helpful to know where the challenges are.

We’ve heard a lot in California recently about the move to factor student test scores from statewide standards-based tests into teacher evaluations. Yet did you know that for more than a decade, it has been the law in California to do just that?

If you are a typical teacher, school administrator, school reformer or parent, you’ll be surprised indeed to hear about Education Code 44662. This decade-old law says that the governing board of each school district “shall evaluate and assess” teacher performance, if possible, using the state-adopted academic-content standards “as measured by” state-adopted “criterion referenced” tests. The law says “shall,” not “may” – i.e., it is required.

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(photo credit: EngComm)