Things Heat Up on the Democratic Platform for 2016

 Update: this post from retired teacher/blogger Fred Klonsky puts it all in perspective.

end of update

And I'm talking about public education.

There was much discussion about the platform's stand on public ed issues early on.  With Hillary Clinton waffling about charter schools (only "high-quality" ones), it was hard to say what would happen.

But now wording has been tightened and it looks like the Democratic party has somewhat split the baby (but landed to the side of ed reform not controlled by corporate/philanthropic groups.)

From the Washington Post's The Answer Sheet (blue is platform language):

In an unexpected move, Democrats have revised the K-12 education section of their party’s 2016 platform in important ways, backing the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, qualifying support for charter schools, and opposing using test scores for high-stakes purposes to evaluate teachers and students.
Democratic negotiators led by Troy LaRaviere, an outspoken Chicago educator who was pushed out of his job as principal of an elementary school by the school district leadership; Chuck Pascal, a Sanders delegate from Pennsylvania; and Christine Kramar, a Nevada delegate, worked to win agreement on key changes to the original language. They got help from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has been a longtime supporter of Clinton’s, and some of their changes were adopted with little dissent.
About charters (from the language of the platform:
Democrats are also committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support democratically governed great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources. We believe that high quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. Charter schools must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools. We support increased transparency and accountability for all charter schools.
 See that "democratically governed?"  Huge.

The new language comes out in favor of allowing parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests — a big move by the Democrats, given efforts by the Obama administration to stop the opt-out movement — and it opposes using scores from these tests for high-stakes evaluation purposes.
From the platform:
We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction. To that end, we encourage states to develop a multiple measures approach to assessment, and we believe that standardized tests must meet American Statistical Association standards for reliability and validity. We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing, the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools, and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers. We also support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school.
Guess who's mad? Coming out swinging first - the head of DFER,  Shavar Jeffries.
The changes around accountability and charter schools infuriated Jeffries, of the Democrats for Education Reform. He issued a statement Tuesday blasting the changes, saying the new platform language “stands in stark contrast to the positions of a broad coalition of civil rights groups.” It is worth noting that other civil rights groups oppose the coalition’s views.
 Also to point out, DFER said some of these stands are in contrast to what President Obama has been working for.  Has anyone ever met a candidate - even for president - who you stand with 100% on every issue? I haven't.

Worth noting is the change in the language around STEM as well as discipline.  Here's the draft language:
We will invest in high-quality STEM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand linked learning models and career pathways. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline. And we will work to improve school culture and combat bullying of all kinds.
 New language:
We will invest in high quality STEAM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand link learning models and career pathways. We will end the school to prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities, and by supporting the use of restorative justice practices that help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment. And we will work to improve school culture and combat bullying of all kinds. We will encourage restorative justice and reform overly punitive disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact African Americans and Latinos, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT.
Makes for an interesting convention to come.


Kate said…
Sorry to be off topic, but does anyone know anything about Nate Van Duzer having been hired by SPS. From Publicola:

'4. Seattle city council member Tim Burgess’s longtime lead staffer Nate Van Duzer—he’s been with Burgess since 2009— is leaving city hall to take a job at the Seattle school district as the director of policy and board relations.'
Anonymous said…
I like the changes. There are definitely places in the country that do not have the plethora of option schools Seattle has. Allowing charter schools that are truly grassroots and distinguishing them from corporate for profit schools is huge.

My friend's kids go to an iLEAD charter school in the LA area and they love it. For them, there were no option schools to choose from. She was really disappointed when iLEAD was not chosen as a charter school in WA state, specifically Seattle. I told her, we already had that in Seattle in our option schools.

I know that SPS has openings in Communications; I'll ask.
Anonymous said…
Another day, another SPS director!

drd said…
Another day, another SPS director!

No kidding! It seems like the district keeps adding and adding and adding to the top layers of management without cutting anything. Who is keeping track of all these executive hires? We need a watchdog to compile lists of executive staff over the past few years. Anyone?

Maybe Chris Jackins has some free time...
n said…
...One of them, Shavar Jeffries, president of the Democrats for Education Reform, an influential political action committee supported heavily by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools,...

So hedge fund managers are now experts on education? That says it all.

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