People in Washington rarely like to admit they’ve been surprised. “I heard that last week,” they will often say when some bombshell hits the newspaper.
Denizens of think tanks also don’t like surprises. After all, their job is to stay in close touch with what’s happening and what’s on the horizon.
Still, there were some surprises for our Washington DC-based think tank in 2012:
Peter Cookson, a K20 Task Force member, was surprised by all the education talk during the election.
Of which there was almost none. “The election was virtually silent on educational issues,” he points out. ”Both candidates talked about the economy, but failed to offer a dynamic education plan in support of a robust economy.” Education always ranks very high on voters’ lists of concerns (although, um, some of those polls are conducted by Gallup and we know how that turned out). Still, the absence of much conversation was a surprise.
Chad Aldeman, a frequent Q&E blogger, was surprised by the election results in Indiana–and he was not alone. “Tony Bennett lost his right flank in Indiana. Although Republican Mitt Romney racked up a comfortable margin in the state’s presidential vote, in the race for state education chief, Democrat Glenda Ritz took 52 percent of the vote against Republican Tony Bennett. Ritz openly campaigned for conservative voters by claiming Bennett undermined local control, which included his support for the Common Core.”
My biggest surprise came out of my home state of Virginia: the firing (and then rehiring) of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan. The Board of Visitors had apparently forgotten that there’s no such thing as a Silver Medal when you’re attempting a coup. The hot mess that the Board of Visitors created will be revisited early in 2013 when Rector Helen Dragas’s reappointment to the Board must be confirmed by the Virginia General Assembly. I haven’t heard whip counts, but I have heard rumors . . . Dragas may be in serious trouble.
John Chubb was surprised by what happened when Chicago teachers–”very well paid and not exactly renowned for their effectiveness”–went on strike. The surprise was that parents were not only not outraged, they were supportive. “I think every ed reformer outside of the Loop was surprised by that one!”
But our favorite response came from newly hired ES Policy Analyst Connie Clark. Her big surprise: “John Chubb offered me a job.”