There was a new tone in the President’s brief comments about education in his State of the Union address. Of course, he promoted his proposal for 2 tuition-free years of community college and the need to help students from debt incurred when pursuing higher education. That was welcome but not surprising.

What was welcome was the absence of fear-mongering about our public schools. No crisis talk about how nations with higher scores would take away our jobs and ruin future economic growth. The President instead highlighted the facts (that I documented in “Reign of Error” in 2013) that the high school graduation rate is at an historic high, as are test scores.

I don’t know if anyone gave much thought to this shift to a positive tone, but it definitely represents a repudiation of the “reformers’” sky-is-falling rhetoric. No reference to “obsolete” high schools, to “failing schools,” or to the ludicrous claim (advanced by Joel Klein and Condoleeza Rice) that our public schools threaten our national security.

Even better, the President did not attribute the slow, steady gains to Race to the Top, nor did he pitch merit pay or teacher evaluation by test scores (VAM) as panaceas as he has done in previous SOTU. There were no paeans of praise to charters or to turning schools around by firing their staff.

It would have been nice if he had expressed the widely shared view that our children are over tested and it is time to focus on creativity, not test prep. But you can’t ask for everything.

The President stated the facts, stayed positive, and for that we can be grateful.