Mrs. Clinton sat down with Newsday in Long Island for an wide-ranging interview that included the topic of public education. Her wording was a bit hard to understand so I'm not quite sure I understand all that she is saying. She has some things wrong (but that was the propaganda of Common Core so I don't entirely blame her.) But she offers zero solutions and that's troubling. And she has a lot more faith in charter schools than I do but that's another thread.
Common Core and Opt Out (this is how Newsday titled this section of the interview)
Filler: So, New York and Long Island don't just lead
the country in property taxes, that's not our only calling card. We're
also now the national leader in the rebellion against higher educational
standards and teacher accountability. I don't know how much you've been
following this. But on Long Island, more than half of students refused
to take standardized tests last week. So, do you support tough national
standards like Common Core, and judging teachers partially based on the
test results of their students? And these are two very specific things.
Clinton: Well, I have always supported national
standards. I've always believed that we need to have some basis on which
to determine whether we're making progress, vis-à-vis other countries
who all have national standards. And I've also been involved in the
past, not recently, in promoting such an approach and I know Common Core
started out as a, actually non-partisan, not bi-partisan, a
non-partisan effort that was endorsed very much across the political
spectrum. Well, you have to ask yourself, what happened? I mean here was
this process that seemed to be really on the way of making clear that
yes, we have local control, but you parent, you teacher, you elected
official in your local district, at your state level, you need to be
sure that you are benchmarking to those standards. That's why we need to
have them. What went wrong? I think the roll-out was disastrous. I
think the way they rolled out the Common Core and the expectation you
can turn on a dime... They didn't even have, as I'm told, they didn't
even have the instructional materials ready. They didn't have any kind
of training programs. Remember a lot of states had developed their own
standards and they'd been teaching to those standards. And they had a
full industry that was training teachers to understand what was going to
be tested. And then along comes Common Core and you're expected to turn
on a dime. It was very upsetting to everybody.
Filler:So you wouldn't say don't do it, you would say do it right.
Clinton:Do it right. Do it right and I would say I
think we need better and fewer tests that are used for what tests should
be used for, first and foremost as to how to improve the educational
outcomes for individual children, for classes of children, and for
schools of children.
Filler: Should they be used at all to determine whether teachers are being successful?
Clinton: I think given the state of where testing is right now, I don't think they're good enough to make that determination.
Filler: But if they were very, very good?
Clinton: Well, that's a big hypothetical. Right now I
have to say, no. I do think it's fair to say, and the federal government
just passed a new education law. And in that education law, I don't
know that a lot of people on Long Island may have been aware of this, it
still requires yearly testing from third grade...
Filler: We tell them all the time.
Clinton: ...to eighth grade and in high school. And it
also continues to require, which was a demand on behalf of Civil Rights
groups, and disability groups, that it disaggregate data so that there
can be a clear picture, because in the past, we had a lot of schools
that you know, they pushed kids out on test day. They also did terribly
with non-English speakers, or kids with disabilities, or whatever,
minority group-wise, and so you weren't really understanding whether or
not they were educating all the children. So we have to do a better job
of explaining why a common set of standards is really in the interests
of the parents who are opting their kids out. Because remember, it is
parents who are opting their kids out. And the parents are feeling like
what is this about. This doesn't have anything to do with educating my
child. So clearly, we haven't done a very good job of explaining it.
Filler: And the opt-out thing is a little separate
from, let me ask you this way: The tests are flawed, let's say and the
roll-out was flawed. And yet given all that, if your granddaughter was
12 right now, would you tell Chelsea to have her take the test, or not
take the test?
Clinton: You know, I would probably take the test, but
that would be just without any specifics about what was going on, and
what had happened during the year, and I mean without all of that. And I
think actually in the city, where my granddaughter lives, the opt-out
is very much lower. In fact, at least it was last year, I don't know
what it is this year. This whole issue... Look, here's how, let me tell
you how I think about education, because every kid deserves a good
teacher in a good school, regardless of the zip code the kid lives in.
And we've been having a lot of debates and arguments about education now
for more than a decade.
Filler: For more than a century.
Clinton: Well, more than a century, but historically
there's been a big uproar about what works, what doesn't work, what the
expectation should be. How do you teach disadvantaged kids. There's a
lot of turmoil within public education. And I am a stalwart supporter of
public education. I think it still remains one of the foundational
institutions of our Democracy. So I don't want to see it be discredited,
undermined, dismissed in any way. We have got to have early childhood
education, especially starting with low income disadvantaged kids, if
we're going to prepare kids to succeed when they get to elementary
Filler: Is that a priority on a Federal level?
Clinton: It is.
Filler: It has to happen in every poor community?
Clinton: It's a big priority for me. And you know, I've
seen only early results so I don't want to extrapolate from them, but
there seem to be some very positive early results in New York City about
universal pre-K, because it's not just the sort of academic
environment, it's the social environment. It's giving kids a chance to
learn how to work in groups. It's giving, you know, kids who needed,
maybe more structure, so there seems to be some positives coming out.
We'll follow that closely. But everything that I've seen and I've worked
in this field for a long time since I was at the Children's Defense
Fund, what I did in Arkansas, is that quality pre-school programs can
help to level the playing field for poor kids, for disadvantaged kids.
Okay, so then when you get kids in school, we have been having this
battle about what works and what doesn't work, and who gets to make that
decision and really this new Federal law basically turned a lot of the
authority back to local communities.
And it did so on a nearly unanimous bi-partisan basis because a lot of
members of Congress were just getting barraged by people saying this
doesn't make sense. We can't figure out what they're doing from year to
year. Because there was so much pressure on districts and teachers and
there were so many fads, you know try this, try that, let's do this now,
that it just became a confusing array of mixed signals. And there is
very solid research about how you help little kids learn to read, help
them with numeracy, help them develop the skills to be a student, and we
should get back to those basics. We know that if you have a longer
school year and a longer school day for disadvantaged kids, it gets
better results. If you have more help in the classroom, particularly if
the classroom has a lot of kids who are poor kids and remember this is
the first year that it's been recorded, that we have a majority of poor
kids in our public schools. They are coming to school with all kinds of
issues and problems. We've taken nurses out of school. We've taken
social workers out of school. We have disconnected the school from the
larger community, so let me end with this, saying you know I think our
schools need some more TLC. What do I mean by that? We've got to invest
more in good teaching. Yes, we need accountability measures, but let's
connect them to what the teachers are facing. When you are a teacher in a
poor school, and you have enormous behavioral problems, when you have
kids coming to school hungry, when you have kids who are homeless, you
have a tougher job than the kids who show up in Chappaqua where I live.
And so let's get our heads straight about how we support the most
challenged classrooms to do better. I started a school when I was
Senator, I worked with 100 Black Men, we started something called The
Eagle Academy. Because there is some evidence that same sex schools and
high school for poor kids, is a good choice that should be available to
them. I had to fight to get the Department of Education to let us go
forward with that, to support charter schools that were public charter
schools but wanted to try this. So I'm really evidence-based. I think
there are some, we need to experiment even with, if we can do it right,
with boarding schools for poor kids. There's just a lot I'm excited
about, if we actually get back to looking at what works.
(Editor's note; Clinton, like Sanders, seems to be confused on charter schools and what they are. Legally, they are public schools and I have to wonder why they both don't know that basic fact. As to how public they are, that's something else.)
Filler: A lot of this experimenting you're talking
about sounds like some of the things that different charters had some
success with. Is there a big place for charter schools in your vision?
Clinton: For good ones. For good ones.
Filler: Okay. Well, no one's pro-bad schools.
Clinton: Well, I'm going to tell you, that's not always
true. I am for good schools. I was one of the earliest supporters of
public charter schools, not for-profit charter schools. I have a problem
with them. But public charter schools. Back literally in the '80s, you
know, I was speaking out about this and I've been to great public
schools that educate poor kids and I've been to lousy public schools.
And I've been to great charter schools that educate poor kids. And lousy
charter schools. So, what I want to do, again, just like you were
talking about Common Core and to set some standards, we need to have a
common set of standards by which we judge all the schools, all the
public schools, traditional, charter, magnet, whatever we call them.
(Editor's note: well, good luck to Mrs. Clinton in creating "standards" for all public schools. Charter people will fight you to the death as will the unions/districts because of local control and the massive differences between states, rural vs urban, etc. Maybe that's just aspirational talk on her part. I suppose you could create a checklist that anyone could compare a school to but it would probably have no weight at all. So what would be the point?)
And I'm very excited about this, because there's a real role in doing
this, if we learn. Remember the original idea behind charter schools was
let's loosen some of the restrictions, but then once they try things,
let's migrate them back into the public schools. And that migration
hasn't been as fruitful as I think it could be.