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The current national strategy assumes the problem is a 'performance' problem, and looked to a new framework of accountability to get the current system and schools to do-better. But it might be that the problem is a 'design' problem and that both the institution and the traditional concept of 'school' need fundamental change.

K-12 education exists in state law. It cannot be reached directly by Congressional or the President. Typically, in such policy areas, the national government tries to 'do things' by tying requirements to its grants-in-aid. This approach has failed in the past, as in the 1960s when the national government tried to take control of urban development.

Marshall (Mike) Smith argues, based on evidence, that it's too early for Congress to proceed with reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind program. Smith, a senior official in the Clinton administration's U.S. Department of Education, was a key author of the strategy of standards-based systemic reform. Written Spring, 2007.

System-level reforms like standards, accountability, choice and chartering make it more necessary for schools to succeed with learning. But these reforms do not by themselves affect achievement. Kids learn from what they read, see, hear and do. So success in the effort at improvement requires capitalizing now on the system-level changes with a major effort to create new forms of school.

The country has the governmental relationships upside down, with the states setting the targets for results and Washington leaning on the states, districts and schools to make it happen. President Obama should put the roles right, so that the national government is "pushing buttons that are connected to live wires".