2016 had some ups and downs related to education. I think overall, the public is starting to wake-up to how a test-and-punish culture is harming children, schools, and their communities. On the negative side, over the past few years, teachers unions have lost ground and teachers have been demonized for being the cause of all that is bad in the world. So, here’s a summary of things that have occurred in 2016 as they related to education.
John King appointed to Secretary of Education and continued the so-called reform efforts of the Every Student Succeeds Act (the replacement for NCLB.) For the most part, John King’s policy’s were no different than Arne Duncan and mirrored the test and punish philosophy of the NCLB. One good thing did come out of the ESSA as much of the power was returned back to the states after many states and high-profile individuals criticized Common Core and NCLB.
The Common Core State Standards were adopted by many states due to Race to the Top Grants that were awarded in 2010. 2016 marked a shift in how people felt about the Common Core Standards, how they were adopted and how states were coerced into adopting them to be eligible for grants. The push-back against Common Core became a theme for elections. The ESSA adopted in 2015 expressly forbids incentives for the adoption of federal standards. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to abolish common core, though this is misleading as the standards were adopted by states by their own choice. Many states have removed common core standards, changed the name, or completely replaced with their own state standards. This map shows the adoption/retention of Common Core by state, though the future of these standards seems uncertain.
High Stakes Testing
Attached to common core and education bills were items that required teacher evaluations to be attached to standardized test scores. States were free to choose the test they would use, but those test grades would be used to not just evaluate students, but to also evaluate teachers and schools. Illinois has bounced through many tests, such as the PSAE, ACT, PARCC, and now the SAT. Like Common Core, high stakes testing has encountered push-back from parents and teachers about the overall fairness of the tests and whether the tests can actually measure what they say they will measure. There is currently a national movement to eliminate or reduce high-stakes testing and unpair it from teacher evaluations. The problem being that teachers have no control over environmental factors and test scores are closely correlated with socio-economic status.
For more information on the movement to reduce high-stakes testing, visit Fairtest.org .
Presidential Election and Appointments
Donald Trump was elected the president in 2016 and appointed a new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos has never worked in a public school system and has never sent her children to public schools. She is a very vocal proponent of vouchers and what is now being called “School Choice.” Be wary, school choice isn’t what it seems. Private schools get to choose their students, but public schools take everyone. Vouchers and charter choices funnel money from public schools. The schools claim to have better test scores, which they may have, but so could a public school if we could remove any child who is underperforming, has behavior issues, or has special needs. If you want to know more about Betsy DeVos and how she plans to dismantle public education and privatize schools, this article gives an excellent overview of her philosophy. Also on this site is a scathing overview of how “School Choice” is just a way to segregate schools and take power away from a locally elected school board.
What Do We Do Now?
The new year could mean big changes to education as Trump has already suggested there would be big changes with his School Choice And Education Opportunity Act (SCAEOA) though the details have not been released. Though Betsy DeVos’ voucher plans may be curtailed by the fact that very little federal education dollars goes to local schools, she does have Title 1 funds available to play with. Worst case scenario could see Title 1 funds stripped from schools and turned over as cash vouchers to families willing to apply for them and send their kids to a private school. There is not enough Title 1 money to provide every family with a voucher at this point. It will be very important to stay informed and contact your representatives about changes and policies that are likely to harm students.
As always, be vigilant, be organized, and of course, behave!
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