Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"There's No Evidence. There's No Evidence."

Something truly remarkable has happened, something for which I've hoped, even dreamed. A politician has spoken, at length, about education without once mentioning those mythical "jobs of tomorrow," "the Chinese are beating us," or, in fact, saying anything about how our children must be trained to make American great again through their toil in the economy. Not only that, but this is a major politician speaking against high stakes standardized testing, who is opposed to using those test scores to evaluate teachers, who is skeptical of charter schools, who favors increased funding for poor and special needs students, and who is calling for a reduction of competition between teachers, schools, and students.

It's like a miracle. And making matters even more confusing is that it was Hillary Clinton taking part in a roundtable discussion with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). It's confusing because, as a man who participates in the Democratic party's nominating process, I've been expecting to caucus for Bernie Sanders, albeit not because of his education policies (although I think that joining the rest of the civilized world in providing free college education is a good idea).

Of all the politicians I've heard speak, I've never heard any of them say this:

"I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There's no evidence. There's no evidence."

I've read that Clinton is good friends with the head of the AFT, Randi Weingarten. Could it be that she's managed to get a woman who could be President to actually look at the research? I don't want to sound sarcastic here, but it really seems like an incredible thing to me. For so long, politicians from both parties, and indeed, politicians from around the world, have spoken from ignorance about teaching and learning, especially when it comes to young children. It's almost shocking for one of them to look at the current state of affairs and say, as those of us in the profession have been saying for years, "There's no evidence."

Regarding the ever-growing scandal that are charter schools:

". . . (Charters) don't take the hardest-to-teach kids. And if they do, they don't keep them."


"There is also great examples of excellent public schools, and they should equally be held up as models . . . They (charters) should be supplementary, not a substitute, for what goes on."

This is in line with what the great Albert Shanker, a former head of the AFT, was envisioning when he first proposed the idea of charter schools back in 1988, a concept that has since been kidnapped and tortured by for-profit (both in name and in practice) charter chains and the public school privatization movement.

And finally, with regard to funding:

I'm going to do everything I can to raise the federal contribution. There are two big areas of federal funding that I feel strongly about. One is the special ed funding, and the other is the Title I funding, the equalization of funding for poor schools . . . Those were the earliest levels of commitment from the federal government, and we haven't really, in my view, fulfilled either one, and we've gotten diverted of into a lot of other stuff. And so, I think I would do what I can to try to provide more support.

Yes, this is a bit vague, but at it's core is an understanding, I hope, that the federal government, over the course of the Bush and Obama administrations, has overstepped it's traditional and Constitutional role in public education, usurping state and local control of our own schools, emphasizing standardization (the enemy of quality education), mandating a curriculum (Common Core; and it is a curriculum), and tying funding and teacher pay to high stakes testing.

I understand that this is a woman who is after my vote, so, like with any politician other than Bernie Sanders (which is a big part of his charm for me), I cannot completely trust that her actions will follow her words, especially since she is so closely tied by money and history with the very Wall Street types who are driving corporate-style education "reform" for profit. Still, I can't help but be excited about this truly remarkable development: a candidate who actually seems to have a nuanced understanding of what's at stake, what's going wrong, and what needs to change. It's not everything, but it's a start.

We know that Jeb Bush is completely in the tank for the corporate-style "reformers," but as far as I know the rest of the Presidential candidates still have the chance to show me they understand. I may not vote completely on education, but what candidates say will go a long way in helping me make up my mind.

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1 comment:

Roxana Marachi said...

Thank you for calling out the push for privatization This is a collection I have been gathering for years to document the concerns with corporate charter reform ( Although testing may seem at first glance to be a separate issue, it is integrally related to corporate charter reform. The .1% foundations/funders pushing privatization are the same ones pushing the fraudulent new computerized tests as they (and their hedge fund investors) stand to profit from land grabs and tech contracts that will be pitched to address the (manufactured) low scores. For more on the testing issues, please see: These collections include hundreds of articles and still only scratch the surface.

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