Well, I did say in my last note that you hadn’t shown much capacity for original thought, that your primary contribution to ed reform were your contributions. I didn’t expect you to prove it so completely in your first at-bat.
Let’s avert our eyes from the tonedeaf response on guns at schools. I’m agnostic on the issue, but you should know that grizzlies aren’t a reason this is a tier-1 conflict. That bespeaks an ignorance I find…unsettling. I accept that you don’t care much about preschool, but what sort of conservative Republican would you be if you thought universal pre-K was effective? Accountability, on the other hand, is a word you’ve heard before, so your constant evasions were seen–correctly–as attempts to avoid answering that you don’t think charters should be accountable to the same degree that public schools are. (No. Charters aren’t public schools.)
All of these could be explained away, or at least considered tertiary issues. You could say you hadn’t been properly briefed. And in fairness, you did have a nice moment with Bernie Sanders on college tuition: “free college” is indeed a misnomer.
But on two points, you displayed ignorance so profound that Republicans should vote against you.
First, you had no idea that IDEA and other federal legislation requires that states pay for absurd and often useless interventions for a wide range of disabilities, including many mild learning disabilities for which no meaningful interventions exist.
Less than a week before you went to Congress, the Supreme Court heard arguments as to whether or not a school district should provide an autistic kid with private school if the educational benefit the school could provide was “only trivial”.
Left unmentioned was the fact that on any given day, mainstream kids aren’t given this right. I don’t often get infuriated at education reporters, many of whom do a pretty good job, but not a single one has pointed out the absurd unfairness of a law that gives a select group of kids the right to sue for the private education of their choice on the grounds that they aren’t benefiting from the education their school provides.
I know many people will snicker–yeah, if all kids could sue their schools, teachers would hate it! Unlikely. I’d expect a lot of kids suing over disruptive classrooms, which would give schools cover to expel troublemakers. I’d expect others to demand the right to be taught what they don’t yet know. Right now, my Algebra 2 junior who counts on her fingers can’t demand to be taught at a school that will instruct her in ratios and basic math, just as a sophomore with fifth grade reading skills can’t sue his district demanding the right to attend a school that won’t insist on pretending he can understand Antigone or Romeo & Juliet. Of course, no such school exists because they aren’t allowed to. Few teachers would oppose safer schools or appropriate curriculum.
Once people figure out that giving all kids the right to sue wouldn’t work out as expected, they’ll look at removing the privilege from that select group. I wrote an entire article promoting the repeal of IDEA. I’m very much in favor of special ed being returned to the states and giving voters a say in what priorities special education receives compared to the wide range of needs that schools and their students have.
Betsy, I would have loved to see you boldly call for an end to federal intervention in special education, to leave these decisions to the states. But you didn’t even know that the responsibility had to be returned! Of course, if you had known what the law was, you’d have burped up (ladylike, I’m sure) a bromide, followed by a platitude and everyone would have patted themselves on the back for caring about disabled kids.
That leads to the second of your gross errors, about which I have less passion but is far more revealing. Growth versus proficiency is something that teachers themselves have been talking about for decades, but education reformers have only really stumbled onto in the past few years, as the need arose when charters didn’t attain the proficiency numbers they expected. But you should know that. This is right in the ballpark of the field you fund so generously. And you were clueless. Franken was right to interrupt and dismiss your answer. (He was wrong to meander off into gay rights, a matter of trivial interest in public education. Put that in the “Why Trump Won” category.)
If fifteen or more years actively supporting charters hasn’t brought you up to speed on the fundamental issues determining their success, then how can we assume you have the capacity to learn about anything less central to your interests?
Bernie Sanders asked the right question. And you proved the correct answer was “No.” A better woman would have said “I was almost certainly selected because I’m a billionaire who has given money to causes. But I also have a real interest in making life better for poor children. That’s why I’m here.” That, at least, would be honest.
Better you should go back to writing checks.
Unlike most of the people opposing you, I accept that the incoming SecEd will be someone I disagree with, someone who openly snorts derisively at my profession, while protesting he does no such thing. I’m fine with that. I’d just like someone…smarter. Someone who really does know the research. Someone who, ideally, has been around the block with education reform. Someone who knows it’s more than the platitudes that typical conservatives spill, that “fixing schools” as they envision it hasn’t yet worked out.
My pick, and I’ve thought about this for a while, is Checker Finn. He’s old enough not to worry about his next job (which is why I eliminated Michael Petrilli and Rick Hess from consideration). He’s cranky and willing to offend. He’s wrong, of course, but then all education reformers are. But when he’s not shilling the reform spiel, he’s knowledgeable on many different aspects of education. And he’s canny. Apart from yours truly, he’s the only person to observe that Trump voters aren’t exactly the target audience for talk of vouchers and charters. He has also recently observed that the era of education reform is over, and wondered whether Trump should even bother with a SecEd, given the restrictions that ESSA has put on the feds. (yay!). This suggests an appropriate level of humility for a long-term reformer, one who understands that 25 years of getting what he wanted in reform hasn’t fixed the achievement gap, that reformers’ grand scheme of killing ed schools with the 1998 Higher Education Act failed miserably. Checker Finn understands full well that Common Core was rejected; he argued in favor of them because he hoped they would result in less federal oversight.
Checker was Never Trump and, as mentioned, pro-Common Core, which is two strikes against him in Trumpland. But Betsy, if you decide to take my advice, I hope you put a word in for Checker with your not-to-be boss.
But since you’ll probably ignore me, see you next letter.
January 23rd, 2017 at 12:48 am
Not the most articulate reply coming 🙂
Union schools screw kids, especially Black kids
1950 to 2009
2x number of students
3.5x number of teachers
8 x number of administrators
Save a child, bust a teacher union
Time for competition in the free market
Tax Credit or negative tax
Since 1970, we’re spending 2.5x more $ per student, in current dollars adjusted for inflation, and getting flat-line results at best
January 23rd, 2017 at 1:06 am
January 23rd, 2017 at 2:58 am
“and getting flat-line results at best”
-That depends on age of testing.
January 23rd, 2017 at 5:56 pm
You’re absolutely right about your facts. However, I’m not at all sure vouchers or tax credits would improve things much.
One reason: we already have something similar to vouchers when it comes to colleges. There are Pell Grants and student loans and they can be used at any college in the country (that’s over 3,000 schools, quite a big market). As far as I can tell, we pretty much have “flat-line results” there–but we also have a great increase in administrators and non-academic personnel, along with a substantial black-white “achievement gap.”
January 24th, 2017 at 7:03 am
That’s a good point about Pell grants.
January 23rd, 2017 at 3:05 am
[…] Source: Education Realist […]
January 23rd, 2017 at 4:15 am
Well, that would get Checker out of Maryland. Maybe he would take Smarick as well.
Hey, so how do you strip your students of all knowledge while swimming in money?
January 23rd, 2017 at 6:32 am
I think he means the money was flushed down the toilet.
January 27th, 2017 at 3:26 am
Forgive my ignorance, but two questions: (1) is there any evidence that vouchers improve learning outcomes? Is there any evidence they worsen them? (2) if you were SecEd, what would you do? You’re not allowed to resign.
January 27th, 2017 at 4:49 am
Evidence on vouchers is depressing for supporters. Worsen–well, I would say that giving people free money for spending they do anyway is a worsened outome.
February 19th, 2017 at 3:28 pm
ER’s rice bowl creates a large blind spot here.
February 20th, 2017 at 11:15 pm
And that blind spot would be?
February 21st, 2017 at 12:35 am
I’m not even sure what my rice bowl is.
February 21st, 2017 at 3:50 pm
According to urban dictionary, rice bowl is:
1. A task performed by a specific individual or group in exchange for compensation. [That’s how I’ve always heard it.]
2. A protected job, project, program etc…
So I’m assuming he means your job as a teacher blinds you to something. One possibility would be that you have a high-paying, secure job that would disappear (or become lower-paying and less secure) with vouchers, so you can’t see all the good they would otherwise do. I am a great believer in people’s ability to deceive themselves but I just don’t see that here.
[Ed, If you were being sarcastic and I missed it, my apologies.]
February 21st, 2017 at 4:21 pm
No, that makes sense but I wasn’t sure. And no, I’m a math teacher. If vouchers were really successful, private schools would run out of math teachers very quickly. My rice is secure.