Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Hillary Said on Public Education

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 school.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes LI leads the nation on property taxes. My parents always lamented school taxes were "highest in nation". However, many schools are fantastic and so well funded. Class sizes of 16-17 kids in elementary and 20 in high school. My own former high school is as well resourced as Lakeside. Private schools beyond parochial don't really exist, there is no need. The very wealthy and working class send their kids to public school. Also, don't have the daily petty crime & theft due to much more on LI in police resources. Sigh....please tax me.