The Election And Education: Look Down (Ballot) Not Up

My longer take on the election is just up at TIME. The 2012 election was not about schools.  Sure, each time President Obama or Mitt Romney mentioned education in a debate or on the trail advocates and wonks lit up Twitter in celebration.  But the excitement over political crumbs underscored how much education was playing for a distant second place in an election where the economy  and jobs were central issues. In the end President Obama’s victory along with a continued Republican majority in the House of Representatives and Democratic control of the Senate means the education policy landscape in Washington is largely unchanged.  But around the country there were ballot in referendums and state and local races with big implications for schools.  In a new TIME column I take a look at what they mean:

The 2012 Presidential election sidestepped the issue of school reform. Neither candidate spent much time laying out, let alone talking up, an education policy agenda. But around the country, there were ballot referendums and state and local races with big implications for schools. Teachers unions had a good night, but so did charter schools. In other words, Nov. 6 left the country with an education mandate as unclear as the electoral mandate overall. Still, what happened in various states will influence what happens in Washington during President Obama’s second term. Here are four key education issues to watch…

You only have to click once here to see all four at TIME’s site.

6 Replies to “The Election And Education: Look Down (Ballot) Not Up”

  1. The original idea behind charter schools was to let parents and teachers have control of a public school so they could be free from many rules and regulations in order to improve achievement for children. However, somewhere along the way, this goal morphed into privateers taking over these schools, paying young teachers $30,000, and pocketing the rest. Citizens are just catching on to this disgraceful hustle.

    In regard to teacher evaluations, “reformers” have convinced many people that teacher effectiveness can be tied to student test scores, even though there is a mountain of research to show that these scores correlate primarily with characteristics of the student and his family. As we see in D.C., this type of teacher “evaluation” marks the teacher of the affluent as “effective” and the teacher of the impoverished as “ineffective.” Well, the public is not stupid and they are beginning to see that this too is part of the fraud designed to discredit our public schools and teachers.

    But the most basic fact is this one: Citizens can see that the people who put children first are in the classrooms, working very hard for modest pay and even less prestige. In the end, citizens will support these people and not the “reformers” who are almost never teachers.

  2. As for charter schools, the election results were not surprising. GA and WA didn’t have them, most other states do. The results can not be construed as any kind of validation of charters or choice. Maybe voters thought, “hmm, other people are trying charters, maybe we should, too.” Maybe, those folks are of the general philosophical attitude which suggests that “our freedom has been curtailed for no good reason–so, hell, why not try charters if our school systems are failing?”

    Further, that political decisions were rendered in those states as to the implementation of an educational delivery system, only means it is possible, though not necessary, that outside observers have legitimate doubt as to the wisdom of the outcomes. The next time the voting public is allowed to decide how Jet Propulsion Laboratory will engineer flights to other planets, will be the last time we ever send spacecraft anywhere. Expertise exists in the hands of the experts. Except when it comes to teaching and learning.

    Andrew, as is the want and habit of policy wonks, likes to situate social change in the language of fellow wonkers. Thus, we get, “Unions didn’t win everywhere, however.” And on and on, in his Time analyses we see the unions as the critical player. As if. The unions are not necessarily all-powerful or even influential in particular states, districts, and assorted jurisdictions. So, Andrew, you really can’t claim the unions succeeded or failed unless you discuss how any union’s political influence is felt within constituencies and voting districts. Maybe Bennett lost because his policies were just stupid, in the view of the voters. Maybe the voters are not well-versed in the nuances of pedagogy or classroom management and so, they went with their gut and their guts told them Bennett was stupid. But maybe, he did have a valid position and it was the voter’s own ignorance and/or union sympathizing that led them down the wrong path.

    Any way you slice it, how any of us understand and make meaning from the election results is contested ground. For once, can’t we all just acknowledge the boundaries of our own empirical ignorance and political posturing?

  3. Linda: Well said. Thanks for reminding people of the original purpose of charter schools and how they’ve morphed into a different beast.

  4. I have happily been working hard and seeing math and science done by bright young minds on a daily basis.

    I also managed to slip away for some guide fishing on the lower Sacramento for fall steelhead and big rainbows.

    What struck me when I signed with the guide, was that he stipulated my enjoyment and success depended upon my casting ability, skill level, fly selection, and water reading ability. If this guide were a school, he would be in major trouble. If he were a teacher he would be fired.

    I think the public is pushing back against school reform. On a personal level most parents like their teachers. There is little or no animosity there.

    I have seen from R. and his posse, pardon the term, “snarky” little attack pieces masquerading as some kind of analysis. R.’s work is lame. It is useless. It is falderal.

    The tide is turning. The experts are not earning their mantle. Folks are tuning them out. How can you claim to be some kind of information expert, and be so doggone wrong all of the time? In the world of education,though, it is a plus.

  5. To R:

    ” Where were you my friend in the field of battle where men win glory? And now you come striding forth with your brave heart,,,”

    Math and science teachers IN THE CLASSROOM earn their chops. They are IN the fight. R and his posse of opportunists are in the rear eating all of the ice cream. (Military lingo for as far from the fight as possible.”

    While some brave, highly talented math teacher puts it all on the line to teach impoverished children Demoivres theorem, or a physics teacher help a student resolve forces on a stationary block on an incline plane, R and his posse dither, twitter, and tweet about policy. They are a murmuration of black birds randomly moving about, and making noise.

    In the aftermath of the last election WHO is listening to policy baloney anymore? It has NO bearing on student learning outcomes.

    The central purpose is easy. What kind of an advance mathematics instructor does your child have, and what kind of an advanced physics teacher does your child have.

    Who cares about the edu-baloney be flung about by our experts.

  6. Charter schools offer parents and students options in edcuation. I live in an area where we do not have any charter schools. We did have a motion for a charter school in a local county, but it was quickly overturned. I think it would be nice to have a charter school in my area to allow students and parents more choices and opportunities in education.
    Fellow educators and I have recently been discussing the fact that it seems teacher salaries will one day be linked to student test scores-this has already become a real life situation in Baltimore City schools in Maryland. It does not seem fair to the students or the teacher to have teacher salaries directly tied to student test scores. Teachers can only help what happens in school; we all know how important parental involvment is to student success and we cannot tell parents what to do in their own home on their time with their kids. Some parents do not have the resources available or know where to find the necessary resources to help their students. I am not trying to put any parents down, many parents do the best they can for their kids; I am simply saying that I do not see how it is fair to link teacher salaries to student test scores due to the fact that teachers cannot control what happens in their students’ lives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week-and what happens in their personal and social lives affects them even more then what happens in their academic lives.

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