Educational Policy: How to Get Nationwide

That gentle and thoughtful critic of schools, James B. Conant, this week illuminates another problem that the U.S. didn't quite realize it had. In a new book, he says that the way the country shapes educational policy—on teaching reforms in grade schools, for example, or standards for advanced placement, or teacher recruiting—is chaotic and costly. After a wistful salute to the policymaking ministries of education in Europe, Conant acknowledges that the U.S. Constitution prevents the Federal Government from taking on such an overriding job. So, with a touch of defensiveness ("I am...