Education in the Trump era: What now?

Donald Trump won the presidency by mobilizing the frustration of non-college educated whites who feel left out and left behind. (Donald Trump will be president of the United States of America. Oy vey.) What now?

On the campaign trail, Trump called for cutting “the power and reach” of the Education Department.

Donald Trump spoke in New York in June. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Donald Trump campaigning in New York. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

“Education has to be run locally,” he said. “Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top are all programs that take decisions away from parents and local school boards. These programs allow the progressives in the Department of Education to indoctrinate, not educate, our kids.”

He backed school choice, including charters, vouchers and magnet schools.

Trump said he’d make colleges cut tuition. “If the federal government is going to subsidize student loans, it has a right to expect that colleges work hard to control costs and invest their resources in their students,” Trump said. “If colleges refuse to take this responsibility seriously, they will be held accountable.”

He also threatened to end the tax-exempt status of colleges and universities with large endowments and high tuition rates, notes Inside Higher Ed. Colleges need “to spend endowments on their students, not themselves,” Trump said. “They need to use that money to cut the college debt and cut tuition, and they have to do it quickly.”

Trump’s education platform includes making it easier for people to afford vocational and technical training.

Here are education quotes.

What’s he really going to do? Would Congress go along? I have no idea. Still in shock.

Trump’s victory “leaves widespread uncertainty about what’s in store for public schools,” writes Ed Week.

Fordham’s Mike Petrilli predicts “quick changes” at the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, including an end to applying “disparate impact theory” to school discipline.

Massachusetts voters rejected lifting the cap on charter schools.

California voters repealed limits on bilingual education.

Trump’s ed policy: Dump the Core

Education is important, says Donal Trump in a video that calls Common Core a “disaster,” blames it for low international rankings (that precede Common Core by many years) and backs local control.

Common Core isn’t “run from Washington,” New America’s Alexander Holt points out. Forty-two states voted to adopt it.

The Obama administration encouraged adoption by tying it to federal dollars (which many consider federal overreach), but the standards were designed by a consortium of state governors and boards of education with funding from foundations (the curriculum to teach the standards is usually decided by the local school district). So while the standards weren’t designed by your local school board, it wasn’t exactly Washington, either.

Trump states: “We have to get rid of Common Core. We have to bring education to a local level.

Forcing states to eliminate Common Core would be running education from Washington — not local control, writes Holt.

Follow the link for a slightly different video which would not embed for me.

ESSA advances: Will every student succeed?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)– the long-awaited revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act aka No Child Left Behind — passed the House 359-64, and is expected to pass the Senate next week. Present Obama will sign it.

The compromise is endorsed by most major education groups, but it misses “the sweet spot of reason in evaluating schools and teachers,” editorializes the Los Angeles Times.

No Child Left Behind made the nation aware, as never before, of just how poorly students of color or with low incomes were faring.

The solution working its way through Congress, though more reasonable than No Child Left Behind, threatens to leave many poor and minority students in schools that middle-class parents would never accept for their children. At minimum, the bottom 20% of schools in California and other states with comparatively poor student achievement need to take concrete steps toward improvement; the looming federal compromise would require intervention only at the lowest-performing 5%. That’s unacceptable. And is this country honestly ready to allow high schools to continue graduating a mere 67% or 70% of their students, with no sense of public outrage?

California dropped its Academic Performance Index in hopes of creating  a broader measurement of school effectiveness,  notes the Times. “Early indications are that the state might end up dumping out a hodgepodge of data for each school, with no overall sense of student performance. How will the state help its neediest schools if it can’t even identify them?”

Conservatives should oppose ESSA, argues Lindsey Burke of Heritage. Although it eliminates average-yearly-progress mandates, the proposed ESSA would not make Title I funds portable or cut duplicative programs, she writes. The act “would maintain significant federal intervention in local school policy for years to come.”

Dutch educators run their own schools

Dutch “educators decide what happens in their classrooms — not bureaucrats,” writes Hechinger’s Sarah Butrymowicz in The Atlantic.

An international school in the Netherlands.

An international school in the Netherlands.

“More than 60 percent of the 8,000 or so schools in the Netherlands are private with a religious affiliation” — and public funding, she writes. All schools can adopt their own teaching philosophy.  The “system functions like a group of 8,000 charter schools.”

In the Netherlands, 94 percent of decisions for middle schools are made by individual school administrators and teachers, while 6 percent are made at the federal level, according to a 2008 OECD report. The country’s schools rank in the top quartile on international tests, well above the U.S., which falls in the middle.

With complete control of their schools’ budgets and no laws about class size or extracurricular programming, principals can opt to have two classes of 15 second-graders each or to have one class of 30 and hire an art teacher, for example. They decide how to evaluate their teachers. They even pick when the school day starts and ends for each grade.

The Dutch government sets standards for what a student should have learned by the end of primary and secondary school. But there are fewer targets than those set by Common Core standards, writes Butrymowicz. And each school can teach in its own way.

“The government inspects the schools once every four years by visiting the schools, meeting with students and parents, and looking at test scores and finances,” she writes. “The small number of schools—a couple hundred or so—that are deemed weak are watched more closely, but the rest are free to carry on.”

Jindal and the irony of local control

Governor Jindal is determined to pull Louisiana out of the Common Core. He wants “Louisiana standards and a Louisiana test” for Louisiana kids. But here’s the rub: Louisiana’s top education officials aren’t having it. According to the Times-Picayune,

Education Superintendent White and board President Chas Roemer dismissed Jindal’s rejection of Common Core as a dramatic but meaningless gesture. They said the state’s 714,000 students will continue lessons aligned with the national academic standards and its associated tests.

So, in the name of local control, Jindal wants out, but local officials are pushing back. This brings up the question: what is local control?

I find much of the Core implementation dismal (and consider the standards themselves partly to blame)–but question the claim that the main problem  is federal overreach. Those making this claim cite a long tradition of “local control,” which, in their view, should remain. What do they mean by that?

If “local control” is state control, well, I’d be happy with local control in Massachusetts but somewhat worried in Kentucky, say.

If “local control” is district control, great–if I live in a district with a liberal curricular tradition (“liberal” in the sense of “liberal education,” not necessarily liberal politics). In a weak district, or a district with strong religious or ideological biases, there’s a much greater chance of fads, poor curriculum, upheavals, and so on, in which case a counterbalance of power could potentially do good.

If “local control” is control at the school level, good for you, if your school has a strong staff, a good curriculum, adequate resources, and wise leadership, or at least some of these. If not, you’re out of luck.  School-level control may be liberating in some cases and confining in others.

Beyond that, within any of these definitions of “local control,” a hierarchy exists. The person in charge (for instance, Jindal) might see things one way, and those directly below him might disagree. Who, then, controls the local control? “Democratic process,” some may say–but democratic process doesn’t always uphold local control.

My point is not to bash local control. In many ways I support it. I am just observing its conceptual fuzziness and practical contradictions.

If you like local control, you can (heh) keep it …

The Common Core is a thin end of an enormous wedge of federal power, conservative pundit George Will said on Fox News.

“The advocates of the Common Core say, if you like local control of your schools, you can keep it, period. If you like your local curriculum you can keep it, period, and people don’t believe them for very good reasons,” Will remarked.

With textbooks and the SAT aligned with the Common Core, we’ll have a national curriculum for all states, warns Will.

The U.S. Education Department is demanding that Indiana prove it’s still eligible for a No Child Left Behind waiver after officially dumping the Common Core. Andy Smarick, a Core supporter, fears a backlash against what many will see as federal overreach.

Washington state already has lost its waiver and others could follow, he writes. “That means there will be a stack of letters from Uncle Sam scolding various state leaders about their inadequate fidelity to federal rules related to standards, assessments, educator evaluations, school interventions, and more.”

Common Core catastrophe?

States rushed the adoption of Common Core standards to be eligible for federal grants, Bill Evers, a former assistant secretary of Education, tells the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

. . . I really think it’s better to not have a national set of curriculum content standards. It’s better that various states try out their best idea of how to do these things, so maybe Pennsylvania will borrow some ideas from Massachusetts or Indiana, or try some ideas of its own.

Common Core is a “utopian project to align all the classrooms in the country to be doing roughly the same things,” says Evers. “Anything like that is just an unimaginably difficult, complex thing.”

The standards themselves, the standards are lists of topics that the child is expected to learn in each grade. The standards have some sloppiness problems and they have some, I guess you could call them doctrinal, problems where they are trying to teach a certain kind of progressive education. And that may not work out too well. . . . the previous attempts to do this sort of thing have failed. There was new math in the wake of Sputnik, there was an attempt at national standards by George H.W. Bush, and there were two attempts in the Clinton administration at national standards and testing and curriculum. They both failed.

Will it do more harm than good? “I think it has the potential to be catastrophic,” replies Evers.

Opposition to the new standards is growing, writes George Will. The Common Core is “designed to advance in primary and secondary education the general progressive agenda of centralization and uniformity.”

Are teachers conservative by nature?

If Republicans showed respect for teachers, they’d discover people with “conservative values” who might enter the “big tent” writes Colleen Hyland, a New York teacher, in The Weekly Standard.  by nature.

Conservative values go hand in hand with teaching. Teachers see the evidence every day that stable families produce well-adjusted kids who succeed in the classroom. Many teachers are people of faith. Most of us are proud Americans who say the pledge every day with our students and mean it. We teach kids how to show respect and use proper manners by modeling them ourselves. We stress personal accountability.

Teachers are receptive to the idea of limited government and local control, Hyland writes. “Layer upon layer of government bureaucracy” forces teachers to  “spend too much of their day with redundant paperwork, wrestling with standards that are overly complex and often contradictory.”

Get the Department of Education off our backs. . . . Speak about deregulating our classrooms and we are all ears.

Of course Republicans would have to “talk about teachers as if you actually like them,” Hyland writes. Treat them with respect.

Whether it’s coming from administrators or politicians, teachers resent -top-down demands that belittle their expertise and ignore their experience. Give teachers credit for what we do as professionals. We are facing a collapsing American culture that is at odds with education in general. It is that same collapsing culture that unites conservatives in support of traditional -values. Despite voting consistently for liberal candidates who actively court their votes, most teachers I know lead fairly traditional lives that respect faith, family, country, and community.

While some teachers are “entrenched liberals,” others feel “the only respect they receive comes from the Democratic party,” Hyland writes. “They would welcome an invitation into the big tent of the GOP.”

Does she have a point?

 

Spending skyrockets, scores don’t

While spending per-student has “taken off like a moonshot ,” SAT “scores have stayed the same or declined, reports Neal McCluskey at Cato @ Liberty. The fact that more students are taking the SAT doesn’t account for “the overwhelming lack of correlation between spending and scores,” especially as National Assessment of Education Progress scores also have flatlined.

Conservatives are incoherent on federal education policy, McCluskey adds, criticizing Rick Hess and Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute for their analysis of federal micromanaging. An addiction to spending federal money and a love of ”standards and accountability” leads to “a great big refuse heap of squandered money, red tape, educational stagnation, and political failure.” Yet Hess and Kelly don’t call for the feds to get out of education policy.

Romney on education

At NBC’s Education Nation, Gov. Romney said the federal government shouldn’t push states to adopt core standards or “financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum.”

Here’s a transcript.