"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, February 6, 2012

Presidential Candidates' Education Grades: F, F and F

With Mitt Romney coming out of Florida with a commanding lead in the primaries it seems likely that he will be the Republican candidate for President. Newt Gingrich is still alive...but barely. Nevertheless, it's a high probability that one of these three men (including President Obama) will occupy the White House for the next four years.

Unfortunately for schools, children and teachers, all three candidates earn an "F" in their education plan and platform.

The Democratic Candidate

Alan Singer, a social studies educator in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Hofstra University in Long Island, editor of Social Science Docket (a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for Social Studies), author and former public school teacher, gives President Obama an "F". I concur.

Obama's Educational Report Card Grade Is F
..Obama could have studied harder; he could have been more creative; he could have played better with teachers, parents, children, and public schools; and he could have offered onto other people's children the kind of education he demanded for his own. He could have resisted turning the keys to the Treasury over to well-connected edu-companies. Based on his first three years in office, the Obama Educational Report Card Grade is a very disappointing "F" for failure.
Singer continues with details...
On March 28, 2011, the president told a town hall meeting at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington DC that when schools are "just teaching the test... you're not learning about the world, you're not learning about different cultures, you're not learning about science, you're not learning about math. All you're learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that's not going to make education interesting." At least according to this statement, Obama values an education that promotes historical, cultural, scientific, and mathematical literacy, an education that examines the world, rather than one that just prepares students to perform on high-stakes standardized multiple choice tests.
I commented on that back in March of last year.
If President Obama is serious about other criteria being used then we'll see fewer tests, not more...we'll see more time dedicated to instruction and learning rather than test-prep and testing. We'll see teachers using professional judgment and developmentally sound activities. We'll see teacher evaluations based on teaching, learning, professional development and the ability to reach students...
But it never happened.

Another voice against the President's Education policies is Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of Education at Stanford who was one of President Obama's campaign and transition advisors. Singer writes,
In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times that she co-authored, Hammond protested against No Child Left Behind mandates still being enforced by the Obama Administration...Educators end up caught in a morass of prescriptions and prohibitions, bled of the initiative and energy that characterize effective schools." Hammond believes that "voluntary, competitive federal grants that support innovation" such as Race to the Top promised might have promoted school reform, however "it ended up demanding that winning states hire consultants to comply with a 19-point federal agenda, rather than truly innovate."
The fact is that President Obama is not a friend to education, educators, students and public schools. Singer:
[Obama caved] to private companies misusing educational programs to maximize profits. Essentially these companies are recruiting unqualified students and using their eligibility for federal student loans to steal tax payer money. The Obama administration vowed to stop the for-profit edu-companies from luring students with false promises about the quality of their programs and the potential for future employment. The Education Department threatened to cut off student aid funds that feed the 30 billion dollar industry. However, after a massive lobbying effort, the teeth were pulled from the new regulations.

According to The New York Times, the for-profit edu-companies "spent more than $16 million on an all-star list of prominent figures, particularly Democrats with close ties to the White House, to plot strategy, mend their battered image and plead their case..."

Another recent New York Times article documented the way the for-profit edu-companies, including the massive Pearson publishing concern, go unregulated by federal education officials. These companies operate online charter schools that offer substandard education to desperate families at public expense. One online program, Agora, made $72 million this school year for its parent company K12, the biggest player in the online-school business.
NEA also gets an F, by the way. In their comparison of candidates they use the President's words, not his actions, as proof that he deserves our support. In the Candidate Platform Comparison (click here for references) Obama says this about NCLB:
“I want to take us in a new and better direction...This agenda starts with education... We cannot be satisfied until every child in America--and I mean every child--has the same chances for a good education that we want for our own children.”1
The Obama administration, under the educational "leadership" of Arne Duncan has worked hard to make sure that the public schools fail.

On Worker's rights:
President Obama believes “collective bargaining is a ‘fundamental American value.’” He has said that “...making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions...”4
Where was the President in Wisconsin last year? Where was he in Ohio, and Michigan, and Indiana? Where was he this year in Indiana when our legislature made us the 23rd Right to Work state in the nation? These are empty words.

There are good reasons for progressives to vote for the President, however. The Supreme Court comes to mind. "Citizens United" is reason enough to keep the High Court from getting a stronger conservative majority and President Obama is much more likely to appoint progressive candidates than either Republican candidate. However, on Education the President gets a failing grade.

The Republican Candidates

The NEA's Candidate Platform Comparison gives us information about Gingrich and Romney as well. Both would continue the de-professionalization of public school teachers and the privatization of public schools.

Gingrich on NCLB:
Gingrich would “...insist that federal funds only go to school systems which require teacher competency and accountability.”1
Romney on NCLB:
“We had a No Child Left Behind...in our state a number of years ago... And it's had a big impact here. It's improved schools.”1
Gingrich on Worker's Rights:
Gingrich publicly sided with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker against teachers and public employees.4
Romney on Worker's Rights:
Romney publicly sided with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker against teachers and public employees.4
Gingrich on Vouchers:
Gingrich strongly supports school vouchers, suggests calling them Pell Grants for kids.3
Romney on Vouchers:
Romney has previously stated support for means-tested school voucher programs.3
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So...maybe this will help...

Click here to sign the Dump Duncan Petition

...teachers throughout the nation have become discouraged and demoralized, undermining your own stated goals of improving teacher quality, upgrading the nation’s educational performance, and encouraging creative pedagogy rather than “teaching to the test.”

We therefore submit the following measures to put your administration’s education policy back on the right track and to bring teachers in as full partners in this effort:
  1. The removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and his replacement by a lifetime educator who has the confidence of the nation’s teachers.
  2. The incorporation of parents, teachers, and school administrators in all policy discussion taking place in your administration, inside and outside the Department of Education.
  3. An immediate end to the use of incentives or penalties to compel states and municipalities to use student test scores as a basis for evaluating teachers, preferring charter schools to existing public schools, and requiring closure of low performing schools.
  4. Create a National Commission, in which teachers and parent representatives play a primary role, which explores how to best improve the quality of America’s schools.

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