Grading The GOP On Education

In this week’s TIME School of Thought column I take a look at the GOP field (Perry, Romney, Huntsman, Bachmann, Gingrich, and Paul) and their views, positions, and histories on schools.

Given how preoccupied everyone is with the economy, education is even less of an issue in this presidential campaign than usual. Most of the Republican candidates do not even include education positions on their websites. And the two GOP heavyweights who have garnered the best reviews from education reformers on both sides of the aisle are not even in the race: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is sitting the campaign out, and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty dropped out after finishing a disappointing third in the Iowa straw poll. But as President Obama gets ready to put the debate about how to reform No Child Left Behind on the front burner (he’s planning a big speech at the White House for this Friday), the GOP candidates can’t avoid education forever. As some start to drop hints about what their education plans might look like, here’s a handicapper’s guide to the leading contenders and their views — and record — on education.

You can read the entire column for free – and pass/fail if you prefer –  by clicking on this link.

12 Replies to “Grading The GOP On Education”

  1. Really curious as to whether the Republicans will continue the S.E.S. under NCLB, given how strapped our country is financially. This will impact so many tutoring businesses across the country. I would personally like to see them add in a deduction for private schools and tutoring services.

  2. Gov. Romney was the only one who gave any indication that he was interested in eduction. He mentioned the good points of Obama’s Race to the top.

  3. I think that so long as the Tea Partiers are in charge of the GOP, they will have little to say about education. Education does not seem to be one of their strong suits anyway.

  4. Here is wonderful idea.

    Make all the reforms you like.

    But stay away from math and science.

    Let them partner with top flight universities to get the improvements they need.

    The edu-wonk and edu-industry had 20 years to improve these fields and HAS FAILED.

    The big waiver deal by Obama could potentially chase out stellar math and science teachers and choke off the pool of outstanding applicants.

    Math and science teachers are scarce. They can get jobs with better working conditions and pay. The teacher job markets for their skills MUST BE COMPETITIVE.

    The Obama initiative selects certain math, science, teachers for onerous value added evaluation. With NO PAY DIFFERENTIAL these scarce teachers will be the laboratory rats for reform.

    Right next door at the school will be the cheerleading teacher, and another door down will be the PE/coach, and they will earn the SAME PAY with no change to their professional lives.

    So, in general a minority of the school, the best and brightest, will be singled out for a reckless experiment, and they will be held accountable for COMPLETELY TRANSFORMING A SCHOOL.

    As a mathematician and physicist I am dumb struck by this HORRIBLE PLAN.

    It is beyond comprehension.

    Any edu-wonk that supports it at the high school level is a craven opportunist.

  5. Robert is exactly right. And doesn’t even get into the reasons why this nonsense will be absolutely impossible to implement. Take my own ordinary large suburban high school.

    First of all, there isn’t much continuity between grade levels in HS science. Here in Texas, Biology is taught in 9th grade, Chemistry in 10th grade, Physics in 11th grade and in 12th grade students must take a science elective which can range from the traditional AP science classes to things like engineering, food science, astronomy, aquatic science, etc. This means that it isn’t really possible to gauge their science knowledge at the beginning of the year to determine how much “value added” science knowledge the teacher has imparted over the year. It isn’t like elementary school reading where standardized tests measure the student’s reading level each year. A 10th grade student entering chemistry may know a lot of biology from 9th grade but perhaps no chemistry at all except what they might remember from middle school.

    Second, classes become really stratified and diverse at the HS level. I teach Aquatic Science to seniors. There are only vague statewide curriculum guidelines for this class and no standardized textbooks. I have developed the class to work with the local resources I have available, which include a pond and stream running through my campus and a nearby wetlands research center. Teachers in say Galveston and Corpus Christi have marine environments nearby and focus their classes on the Gulf of Mexico. There is no standardized state exam for this class and it would be inappropriate to even attempt to design one because part of the curriculum guidelines for this class is to adapt it to local aquatic habitats. So how does my supervisor use test scores to evaluate my performance? Do they just look at the scores on the final exams that I wrote and graded myself? Cool. I’ll be the top performing teacher in my school and earn the biggest bonus pay raise in the history of my district if that’s the case!!!

    Even in the core science classes that are subject to state standardized tests there is no real way to evaluate teacher performance. The teacher across the hall from me whom I’ll call Teacher A teaches what amounts to remedial physics to smaller groups of struggling students that include limited English proficient kids, special ed and learning disabled kids, and kids who for whatever reason have fallen through the cracks and are in danger of failing/dropping out. She has kids in foster care and kids who were in Mexico or El Salvador last year. Next door to her is Teacher B who teaches AP Physics B, AP Physics C, and pre-AP Physics to students who tend to be the kids of doctors, lawyers, professors at the local university, and engineers at the local aerospace companies. Some of them have already gotten early admission to various ivy league schools. How does an administrator use student scores on the state standardized end of course physics exam to compare these two teachers? Especially given that there is no pre-test of physics knowledge given at the beginning of the year and the prior year’s standardized science test was on chemistry rather than physics?

    In any event, back to the topic of the article. Andrew is giving Perry a grade of C for education in Texas? Are you serious? Perry has presided over the largest cuts in education funding in the history of this state, forced on us by a completely fake fiscal crisis and his refusal to consider any type of tax increases (or roll back of tax cuts). The state legislature is controlled by Republicans and a lot of them were apparently open to exploring various ways to continue stable education funding or make the cuts less drastic but Perry’s “leadership” squelched any consideration of any proposals to increase revenue. Local political observers believe he was really just trying to shore up his national tea party credentials for the presidential primary but it is the kids in Texas who are suffering. A gentleman’s C? Are you serious?

  6. Good comment Kent.
    However, this:

    She has kids in foster care and kids who were in Mexico or El Salvador last year. Next door to her is Teacher B who teaches AP Physics B, AP Physics C, and pre-AP Physics to students who tend to be the kids of doctors, lawyers, professors at the local university, and engineers at the local aerospace companies. Some of them have already gotten early admission to various ivy league schools.

    will get you marked as a defender of the status quo who makes excuses by the professional education reformers.

  7. I second phillip: Great comment Kent. Your real-life example of two physics teachers IN THE SAME SCHOOL who teach wildly different groups of students is another reason why I think all this teacher evaluation linked to testing, merit-pay proposals and the like are just garbage.

    Based on your physics example, guess which students will be testing higher at the end of the year? Not the kids from El Salvador. Well, let’s just fire their teacher then, and all will be good. (That’s sarcasm, in case anyone can’t tell.)

  8. Value added techniques for estimating teacher effects control for differences between students. The control is statistical and imperfect, surely, but the fact that teachers teach different students does not itself invalidate these techniques. That’s one of the main problems these techniques are designed to address.

  9. I noticed a thunderous silence when it comes to Mr. Cain. Why is it noone want to mention him or his ideas? Could it be that people are afraid of brutal honesty? Could it be that people might hear something that actually works and doesn’t indoctrinate the students into statism? Maybe its just me.

  10. Art: Hearing from its supports, value-added is SUPPOSED to control for student differences. However, my understanding is that almost uniformly, teachers of low-income, low-performing students fare WORSE under IMPACT and other value-added measures (such as in DCPS), leading me to believe that they don’t control for it nearly well enough. How would you even control for things like skipping school, absences due to illness, or the effect of a student with emotional disabilies on his classmates?

    Moreover, these types of problems are not assigned randomly to teachers throughout the system: They fall more heavily on some teachers than others and occur more frequently in some student populations than in others.

    To my understanding, the “controls” simply attempt to control for the level the students were at last year (if that), not any of the other student characteristics that influence learning. If I’m wrong (and somehow these models take into account student absences or tardies, or students who don’t do their homework because they’re taking care of their younger siblings after school, or students who miss class because they were suspended for illegal behavior), please let me know.

    If I were a teacher who might lose my job if my value-added numbers weren’t high enough, do you think I’d want to teach in a school where my student’s backgrounds are very likely to jeopardize my job?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.