Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued a mea culpa of sorts on the overuse of standardized testing, and his successor John King has drawn attention to racial segregation and overly harsh school discipline.
While it's nice that these guys have finally taken the crucial step of paying valuable lip service to these things, the fact is they've done jack squat on the testing front, and John King is, in fact, trying to subvert ESSA to ensure that more testing be done, spirit and letter of the law be damned. And despite the alleged philosophical evolution of President Obama, I haven't heard him raise a peep over King's disregard for the law.
You'll pardon me for not getting overly enthusiastic here, but I've watched our AFT President Randi Weingarten very carefully, along with our local President Michael Mulgrew, and I've heard a lot about what President Obama has said. Those words have not changed much for those of us who actually do the work. Things seem to get worse each and every year, no matter what they say. Here's more on our commander-in-chief:
Two years later, in a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Obama referenced teacher tenure more harshly, saying, “I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences.” If we could fire bad teachers and replace them with better ones, the thinking went, we could narrow the academic fissures between rich and poor children.
Obama wasn’t wrong about the excesses of teacher tenure.
I love that Goldstein feels no pressure to, you know, offer any evidence for that statement. In fact, tenure does not give teachers jobs for life. Tenure just means, or at least used to mean, that admin has to prove teachers are unfit before they fire them. Generally no one, including Goldstein, questions why these teachers received tenure if they were indeed unfit. And no one questions why administrators didn't bother to go after these teachers before. But now that Cuomo has managed to place the burden of proof on teachers to prove they are not unfit, a virtually impossible burden, perhaps writers like Goldstein find things improved. Who knows? She herself feels no need to even offer an explanation.
And while it's nice that Obama pays lip service to factors other than teachers, and it's nice that Hillary does as well, there's no evidence here that anything is going to change, and no promises to actually, you know, do anything about it. Were Hillary saying she was going to do away with all VAM junk science, it would be something worth talking about. But I didn't hear that, and Goldstein didn't report it. Here's the important part of Goldstein's argument:
I wrote a book on our historical tendency to blame teachers for society’s ills.
That's what you call an appeal to authority, a logical fallacy, if not a self-serving advertisement. I don't care if she's written ten books. Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein have written books too, and they're still still full of crap. Show me why I should listen to you. Here's what self-appointed expert Goldstein has learned:
Teacher accountability isn’t a bad thing; any functional system has mechanisms in place to remove low performers and, even more importantly, help them improve.
You see that? It's more important to help them improve, but despite all the nice words about external factors from Hillary and Obama and her uncited sources, there's still that bad teacher floating around the pool polluting the water for everyone else. And here's Goldstein's conclusion:
It’s safe to say it is a new day for the Democratic Party on education policy. But here’s hoping that Clinton’s turn toward the unions doesn’t mean she lets go of some of the Obama administration’s more promising recent ideas.
Despite the fact that Hillary was addressing an audience of teachers and clearly catered her remarks to evoke applause, despite the fact that this was a speech, not an act, and despite the fact that teachers booed her remarks about charters, which she clearly plans to support and expand, this writer, who "wrote a book," is certain it's a new day. Frankly, I didn't even see how Hillary's promise of "a seat at the table" has any meaning whatsoever. I've been to many legally imposed public meetings where those who were supposed to listen had their minds made up and did whatever they came to do anyway. I've joined entire communities to speak at that table as Bloomberg's operatives played video games below it, ignoring us entirely.
If Hillary becomes President, it's incumbent upon activists like us and opt-out to keep the pressure on. We already know that AFT and NEA are content with status quo and unconditionally accept every word that comes out of the mouths of educational demagogues they wish to support. It's what they do, not what they say, and thus far Hillary Clinton has done nothing but sit idly by while her former boss followed each and every reformy druther of Bill Gates. She's accepted money and support from Broad and the Walmart family, and this teacher does not believe reformies are paying for any "new beginning" that involves improving the lot of public school teachers or students.
Go ahead and prove me wrong, Hillary. But don't take me for such a fool that, after decades of reforminess, I should just take your word things will be better even as you offer no specifics whatsoever.