Wednesday, October 05, 2016

October 5, 2016--Hillary Clinton's Plan for Education

Over coffee yesterday, John, a lifelong liberal, said with some sadness, "Look, I know Hillary's going to win and that's a very good thing, but why is she running? I mean, in big picture terms, how would she summarize what she will do for America when our president?"

"She could say 'I'm not Trump,'" I quipped.

"Or, 'I'm a woman,'" Rona quipped.

"Though I can't stand him," John said, "Trump effectively sums up why he's running by saying, 'I'll make America great again.' Of course what he's proposing to do, if he is proposing anything more than tax cuts for people like himself, is either nothing or preposterous. But he's still attracting almost half the potential voters."

I said, "A lot of that has to do with the fact that he's not Hillary, not a woman, and is white."

"And not a politician," Rona added.

"She has a plan for this and a plan for that and then another plan for something else," John said. "I think she has at least 100 plans. But still, she isn't saying what she wants to accomplish. This may sound cynical, but I suspect that one reason she isn't ahead by 25 points is that many people, very much including those who would be eager to feel good about voting for her, think she's running for the presidency because she feels it's her turn and that she just simply wants to be president. Which is very different, obviously, than telling the public what she would do if she were elected."

"Maybe we're being unfair," I said. "I confess I haven't, but have either of you looked at any of her plans? She keeps encouraging people to look at them on her website. Maybe they're terrific and if enacted would accomplish good, progressive things. If so, the problem might be that she's not that great a communicator. She admits to not being a natural politician like Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan."

John and Rona indicated they hadn't read any of Clinton's plans and so I volunteered to look at the one for education and report back to them about what I think about it.

*   *   *  

Her plan for K-12 education says that--
As President, Hillary will: 
Launch a national campaign to modernize and elevate the profession of teaching.
Provide every student in America an opportunity to learn computer science.
Rebuild America's schools.
Dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
I scrolled down to see if there was more on her education agenda but there isn't. This is it.

Since the other's are self-explanatory, I took a closer look at priority 1--elevating the teaching profession.

Here it is in its entirety--
America is asking more of our educators than ever before. They are preparing our kids for a competitive economy, staying on top of new pedagogies, and filling gaps that we as a country have neglected--like giving low-income kids, English-language learners, and kids with disabilities the support they need to thrive. We ask so much of our educators, but we aren't setting them up for success. That's why Hillary will launch a national campaign to elevate and modernize the teaching profession, [sic] by preparing, supporting, and paying every child's teacher as if the future of our country is in their hands--because it is.
There is little new here but it is still good to remind people that we need to do better by our young people.

Of course it is true that the future is in teachers' hands. At least partly. Parents count even more and there are also significant roles for other service providers and programs such as school lunch programs and rich pre-school and after-school programs. Perhaps these are addressed in other Clinton plans.

"Supporting" teachers is fine as is paying them appropriate wages, but there is not a word here about holding teachers in any way accountable for how their students progress. Raising this gets us into the hot topic of using high-stakes achievement testing as part of the accountability process.

The kind of testing we do as part of the process of evaluating and rewarding teaching excellence is not the only way to do this. As someone who prides herself on her 30+ years of advocacy for children one could expect much more than is revealed in this skeletal plan.

We hold doctors and surgeons accountable for the outcomes of their work so why not teachers?

There is also not one word here about helping teachers learn and employ methodologies that have proven to be successful. There are many with excellent track records which could be endorsed and funded through vigorous and visionary presidential leadership.

Clinton's whole approach to education improvement is too soft and in effect a pander to the organized education establishment.

Her call for "elevating the profession of teaching" could have been written by one of Clinton's most fervent supporters--highly visible on the platform the night Hillary accepted the Democratic nomination--Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. In effect, the national teachers' union.

Weingraten has been a lifelong opponent of anything having to do with changing the existing teacher tenure system and has lobbied long and effectively to kill off the nascent accountability movement.

*   *   *

I suspect when I report back to John and Rona they will not be surprised. I only hope they won't ask me to read any other plans.

With Randi Weingarten

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