Storm Clouds Over Hillary Clinton's Education Agenda

rogertitcombe's picture
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I am reposting here an article by American blogger Nancy Bailey. LSN readers will be struck by the many parallels to what is happening here. I have used square brackets to draw attention to some of the more obvious of these. For me, the most significant parallel is the way in which the Democratic Party seems stuck in the same paradigm as the Republicans - For Hilary Clinton read Ed Miliband and Tristram Hunt. We are still waiting for Jeremy Corbyn and Lucy Powell to break out of this. If you want to follow the many embedded links in her post then you should read it on her website where you can also leave comments. "Hillary Clinton gets positive points for speaking out about autism and mental health. She mentions student transition from high school to young adulthood where there exists a worrisome gap. There is more she proposes here. Mrs. Clinton also brought up the sensitive topic of seclusion and restraints involving students with serious disabilities. We need that conversation – and to find alternative ways for teachers to work with students who act out violently. Still, I am concerned about Mrs. Clinton’s overall ideology when it comes to public schools. I am not saying there are any Republican candidates whose ideas grab me in this arena either. At least Hillary Clinton is speaking out about children, and it is refreshing she mentioned autism, and also the need for mental health services. But I am writing today about the concerns I have with some of her other ideas about students and their public schools. Teach for America [Teach First] Secretary Clinton supports a National Teaching Corps which is synonymous with Americorps and Teach for America. If we have a teacher shortage in this country it is, in part, because teachers have been treated abysmally in the corporate march toward privatization. Part of this nastiness has evolved through the ridiculous promotion of fast-track-made teachers — pitting this group against real university prepared teachers who study children and their development in education programs. And it doesn’t look like it is going to get any better soon. University teacher preparation programs are being taken over by on-line, untested programs like Relay Graduate School of Education. Many of these programs advocate harsh behaviorism. Those who never formally studied education are being given the power to highly influence how America’s students will learn in the future. Real credentials don’t seem to matter anymore to some politicians. Yet, countries doing well in education (like Finland) expect teachers to have graduate degrees in education. Teachers are also well-respected professionals and paid well. They do not rely on novices, who go into the classroom like they are members of the Peace Corps, or who are not committed to staying in the classroom. It is disturbing that Mrs. Clinton cannot see how troubling this kind of teaching will be to the future of this country and its children. Charter Schools [Academies and Free Schools] The Clintons have always been fans of charters and seem to have blinders on when it comes to all the bad reports about them. Here is a recent report from South Florida reflecting the problems of tax-supported charter schools that close abruptly, leaving students in the lurch. Today, almost anyone can start a charter school. Many charters have little oversight and lack transparency. Many believe the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act is a giveaway to charter schools. Yet, there is no legitimate research to indicate these schools do better than real public schools. Vanderbilt University also recently came out with a negative report referring to the Achievement School District in Memphis, charter schools which have been gobbling up public schools like they are at an all-you-can-eat feast. The Vanderbilt study is cited below and it is available online as a PDF file. Also, how many times does it have to be said, that charter schools don’t take all children? Students with special needs and ELL students are often rejected. New Orleans had, and probably still has, problems with their charters rejecting students with disabilities. I’d ask Mrs. Clinton to do some research on how many students with autism are accepted today into NOLA charter schools. Last, what is the purpose of a democratically run school board if charter schools run on their own? As the State of Washington Supreme Court recently noted, it means charter schools are not real public schools. Promoting unregulated charter schools is a worry. It’s like endorsing the end of democratic public schools. Common Core [DfE control of the curriculum] There is no solid proof that Common Core works. It is a program built on wordiness and rehashed objectives that look to have been pulled from old teaching manuals. Why emphasize informational text and non-fiction over fiction? Why resort to sameness in standards when this is a free country that prides itself on diversity? And why are Bill Gates and David Coleman given so much liberty over our public schools and what we teach our students? The standards have been criticized by well-respected educators like Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Carol Burris and Sandra Stotsky. Critics come from both political parties. It is troubling that Mrs. Clinton does not, at the very least, question Common Core. She immediately came out in favor of these standards that are so controversial. It would be nice if Hillary Clinton re-examined her education agenda and reflected on the importance of America’s public schools in a free, democratic society. There’s more, but I will leave it with the above three concerns for today. Here is a link to Hillary Clinton’s Education Agenda. There are some positive ideas here too."

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rogertitcombe's picture
Tue, 12/01/2016 - 13:24

You can ignore the last paragraph as the link appears in my 4th para.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 12/01/2016 - 14:05

Nancy mentioned New Orleans charters. TES reported in June 2012 that after Hurricane Katrina most teachers employed before the flood were sacked and replaced by Teach for America participants. New Orleans schools were turned into charters.

Test scores in New Orleans have risen rapidly since Katrina from a low base. But many displaced by Katrina didn't return - the population of New Orleans shrunk by 29% by 2010. This makes pre- and post-Katrina comparison of test scores difficult. One third of principals admitted they cherrypicked pupils on their ability to score highly in tests.

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