California, Where Failure Is a Virtue

By WSJ, Editorial

California educator calls ‘F’ grade a ‘badge of honor.’

One reason American public education is so lousy is because so many in the schools establishment refuse to admit there’s a problem. Take Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent for California, who says a negative critique of the Golden State’s policies is a “badge of honor.”

On Monday, the reform group StudentsFirst—founded by former Washington, D.C. schools superintendent Michelle Rhee—released its new grades for state education policies. California was one of 11 to get an “F” grade, ranking 41st among the 50 states.

Mr. Zeiger claimed to be elated by the failure. He called StudentsFirst “an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” adding to the New York Times that “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”

Mr. Zeiger is a factotum of the teachers unions that dominate California politics, so he naturally dislikes StudentsFirst because it advocates evaluating teachers based in part on student performance on standardized tests. Ms. Rhee and her reform group also want teacher evaluations to be made available to parents, among other policies to improve accountability. Unions don’t like accountability.

As it happens, last week the U.S. Department of Education denied California a waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act because the state hasn’t passed a law requiring standardized test scores in evaluating teachers. Perhaps Mr. Zeiger is proud of that failure too.

A version of this article appeared January 8, 2013, on page A16 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Where Failure Is a Virtue.

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