Thursday, December 24, 2015

Leaving Hillarytown

Hillary Clinton opened her mouth the other day, and said she wouldn't keep open any school that wasn't better than average. She later clarified to say she meant good, rather than better than average. To me, that was not much of a distinction. I work in a good school, even by reformy standards, but I don't delude myself that it's because we are all super teachers. I'd say it's because we have super kids, and that any school with such kids can do well. Just ask Geoffrey Canada, who had to dismiss entire cohorts to make himself look good. Ask Eva Moskowitz, with her "got to go" list.

For anyone who hasn't noticed, there is a direct correlation between high poverty, high needs, and low test scores. Kids like the ones I serve are a drag on any school, because it turns out people who don't know English tend to score poorly on standardized tests in English. Perhaps one day someone will do a study and prove it, and we'll all be amazed. Until then, schools dominated by ELLs will be targeted. For example there was the one in Rhode Island, where they wanted to fire all the teachers. Obama and Duncan thought that was fantastic. (If I recall correctly, the teachers were ultimately kept on, but under diminished working conditions. Another victory for the reformies.)

Despite this explanation in Diane Ravitch's blog, and the convoluted story to which it links, I cannot rationalize this as Hillary having misspoken. While the feds don't directly close schools, they've had massive influence in school closings anyway. For Hillary to even utter such a sentence indicates to me that she has drunk deeply of the reformy Kool-Aid that says teachers and schools are to blame. She does  not seem to have read Ravitch or considered what this reformy movement is all about. It also kind of dashes my hopes that she will advocate for a rational teacher evaluation system. The fact that Eli Broad contributes to her gives me even more pause.

Every day I talk to great teachers whose morale is in the toilet, who casually mention what else they can do for a living, and others who drop hints that they will dump this gig and go work in Macy's or wherever the first moment they can afford it, or the day they're vested. This will have little effect on Hillary or her rich friends, who sidestep the nonsense they impose on public schools by paying to send their kids elsewhere. But you're not gonna see kids I teach at Dalton anytime soon.

I'm also troubled by the viciousness of her supporters. On Facebook I've seen people suggest that those of us reluctant to support her are massive idiots. When the first story about her quote surfaced it was on the Weekly Standard, and there were outraged ad hominem attacks even though the story simply offered the quote. Later there was video, and multiple sources, and crickets from those who attacked the conservative publication.

The irony here is that my vote, beyond the primary, is ultimately of very little importance. If Hillary grabs the nomination and has trouble in New York, she's a dead duck. Personally, I'm not at all keen on voting for candidates of any party who don't support public education. When Andrew Cuomo campaigned the first time for governor, he ran on a platform of going after unions. I voted Green both times Andy ran. And while Obama fooled me once, after he gave GW a third term in education I voted for Dr. Jill Stein, Green candidate, for President. I am not greatly swayed by arguments that Hillary sucks less than any GOP candidate, even though she may. She's still a horrorshow.

It would take a lot to get me to pull the lever for anyone who talks like that. Frankly, with Democrats like that, who needs Republicans?
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