One of the perks of being Secretary of Education is that he or she selects member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), which is the oversight body for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The board is designed to be bipartisan and to represent people from different walks of life. As the NAGB website states, The Governing Board is made up of 26 members, including governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators and researchers, business representatives, and members of the general public. Members are appointed by the U.S. secretary of education.

When I was appointed to NAGB by Secretary Richard Riley on behalf of the Clinton administration in 1998, the board was truly representative and diverse and collegial. We worried constantly, as did Congress, about keeping “politics” out of the decision making process.

That was then, this is now. Now we have a Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is actively hostile to public education. It is reasonable to assume that she wants NAEP to show public schools in the worst possible light to provide ammunition for her crusade to destroy them. No one questions whether her selections are “political.” Of course they are. Unlike Secretary Riley and other secretaries, no one she selected disagrees with her dire diagnosis of public education.

Peter Greene writes here about her choices for NAGB here. Here are the folks who will shape future assessments. My only hope, as a former member of the board, is that their ability to mess up NAEP will be constrained by the professional staff, unless she has replaced them with rightwing zealots and by the limited nature of the decisions that the board makes (whether and when to test the arts or history or civics or “grit”).

After four years in which to replace retiring members, DeVos will have put her stamp on NAGB. Perhaps the standards will become so high that no one reaches NAEP Proficient, not in public schools or charter schools or religious schools, and we can declare all of American education a disaster and throw up out hands in feigned despair. Greene sees the slant of this board as reason not to take NAEP results seriously in the future. The media, however, will continue to see NAEP as the gold standard, so I am hoping the new additions will not render it useless.