After Trump’s election, mother says “I was scared as hell”

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I was scared as hell…

I’m kind of pissed that I feel like I was placed in this constant state of fear due to something that I tried to help control. I voted for Hillary. I wanted the democratic party to win. I needed her to deliver that victory. She didn’t. He won. And there I sat, frozen in fear.

Now let me be clear – I wasn’t fearful of Donald Trump. He’s just one man for goodness sake. However, he’s one man whose tentacles reach those who think it’s okay to be even more openly racist than before. I’m Black. I’ve been called nigger and jiggaboo, and yes, it’s been irritating, but I’ve handled it. I learned how to talk back and take up for myself, and ensure that whoever the person was who issued the racist negativity towards me would think twice before they did it to anyone else. Yeah, I was that type of person. A woman turned renegade because of life experiences.

I was recently asked to fly to the south for a meeting. Now I’m not going to say the city or state because I don’t want folks coming after me because I mentioned where they live. I don’t know if they would, but Donald Trump is going to be president so hell, anything can happen.

I didn’t want to go to said city because frankly I was scared as hell. I wasn’t sure if it was safe to travel to a place that historically has been unkind to Black folks. They didn’t like us before and quite frankly I’m not convinced they like us now.

But I went anyway. And while I was there something interesting happened. I was all of a sudden very “present”. More than I’ve ever been before. I felt myself on high alert “just in case.” I didn’t want to be caught off-guard in case some racist person decided they wanted to taunt me and tell me they were sending me back to Africa. (Actually the joke would be on them because I’m a descendant of whites and Native Americans. So theoretically, I’m more American than they are!)

But I digress.

So being present meant I was more aware of my surroundings and the people who filled the space around me. I was more inclined to make eye contact and say a cheerful hello. I held the door a little longer than I normally would for the person behind me. I created a safe space for myself by being consciously aware of the people who were there with me. It was earth shattering for me.

I wasn’t scared. I was intrigued. I wanted to know about everyone and hear their stories and understand, well, them. I wanted to listen and learn and offer and project and laugh and smile and feel safe for myself and for them. I found myself being able to do that during one of our conference sessions when we shared how we were feeling one week after the election. At one time we all shared our concerns and hopes. We all became vulnerable, together. The people of color in the room shared how they’ve been accosted and called names and approached by Trump supporters who did threaten to send them back to Africa (it’s funny how they just assume we know someone there. I personally don’t know one person in Africa. That might be a problem if we do have to go back!) Again, I digress.

I saw the fear in their eyes as they told their stories. I also saw the empathy and sadness in the eyes of all the others in the room. I watched them as they wept and became emotional because hate had been shown and what could be the future was very real. It was in that room. I heard heartfelt apologies from people who, I believe, felt that was all they could do at that time. And I felt myself open a bit more and receive what was being shared in that room.

As with most meetings or conferences, they feed you like you haven’t eaten in months. And so there we were on our fourth meal of the meeting and I saw the same woman who had been waiting on our group the entire time we were there. She always smiled and attended to our needs. I was drawn to her for some reason. She made me feel welcomed.

On the last day at the conference I came downstairs to check out and there she was. Ready to greet me with her smile and sunny personality. She asked me where I was from and I told her Washington, DC. I asked her and she told me Egypt. She has a husband and three children here – two are a set of twins. She told me how she enjoyed her job and she’d been in the US for six years. Her parents and siblings are still in Egypt and she wished they could come to the states and be with her, but it wasn’t possible. She told me about how hard she and her husband worked to provide for their family and how she was pleased that I was pleased with her service to us. I thanked her profusely for working with us and told her what an outstanding job she did and what a wonderful person she was, mainly because I wanted her to know that she mattered and her story mattered.

I left the hotel feeling enlightened. As I sat in our last meeting of the conference where I looked around at the people that I was spending time with and said to myself, “I am not alone. They may not feel what I feel as a Black woman, but I am not alone.”

Now I know my experiences won’t be the same as their experiences and my children’s lives won’t be the same as their children’s, but that’s okay. My children will have great lives regardless of who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue simply because they can. I tell my sons all the time “a bird doesn’t ask for permission to fly. It just flies.” I say that to prove to them that they don’t need to ask permission to be great or smart or talented. They can just be. They don’t need anyone’s approval.

That’s how I feel now. I can still feel safe in this country. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission for that to happen. I can go and come as I please without fear. And you know what? THAT Is what makes America great. Having an appreciation for the different types of people and ideals that make up this country. Understanding that while none of us may have all of the answers, we are all in this, together.

Naa Borle Sackeyfio is a Human Development graduate of the University of the District of Columbia. She wrote this post for the D.C. K-12 blog.

I backed Clinton when it wasn’t cool, now I want her to get real about education

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I went on record as a Hillary Clinton supporter before it was the easiest thing to do. Now I hope that Hillary will return the favor when it comes to standing firm on her support for high standards in education and school choice.

Back in March of this year it looked like Bernie Sanders had a reasonable shot at being the Democratic nominee. It wasn’t at all clear that the Republicans would nominate Donald Trump, so it was still conceivable that independents and some Democrats might cross over to vote for their candidate. So, when the reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times stood by the entrance to the Clinton rally looking for a quote, folks were dodging him.

When I saw that, I knew that somebody other than the elected officials and party bosses needed to step up. In some small way, this political titan needed an everyday citizen to go to bat for her. So I did what I knew was right. I stepped up and did my best to argue that Hillary Clinton was not just the party’s choice, but also the people’s choice.

A few months later, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to the National Education Association (the nation’s second largest teachers union) in which she took great pains to distance herself from President Obama’s legacy of support for high standards, teacher accountability and school options. Soon after that, Clinton’s platform committee met in Florida and turned the party’s policy agenda sharply against high standards and weakened long-standing support of public school choice—even where public charter schools are concerned.

chrishillaryI’ve been around politics and elections for a majority of my life, so I get it. The teachers unions are important members of the Democrat’s winning coalition in the upcoming national elections. Nobody wants them upset. They give money, they mobilize volunteers and they talk to millions of parents across the country on a very regular basis. People in communities often turn to teachers for input and guidance. It won’t be easy for Hillary Clinton to stand firm on these issues.

But that is what attracted me to the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the first place. Because this is a party that stands for people when they can’t stand up for themselves. Because the Democratic Party platform is home to progressive policies that cast aside traditional ways of doing things when those traditions run their course and start hurting people.

Because President Obama used his policies, his appointments and bully pulpit to promote innovation and progress in education. Because when it comes to education, the students—especially low-income students in under-resourced communities like the one where I grew up on Chicago’s West Side—are those people who can’t stand up for themselves.

Because we know that spending more money on education isn’t the only answer. It is often a copout—the United States already spends significantly more on education than many other OECD countries.

Because the Democrats do the right thing. And because the Clintons are Democratic royalty.

When I look back on it, I realize that these values—the ones I learned growing up in community organizing and Democratic politics in Chicago—are what motivated me to step up to that reporter at the Hillary Clinton rally back in March when everybody else was playing it safe.

I was just being a good Democrat.

I hope that in the final stretch of the presidential election, Hillary Clinton will tap into her Democratic roots. I hope she will be inspired by the same Democratic values that inspired her to give her life to fighting for the little guy, the same values that inspired this community organizer on the south side of Chicago to want her as the next president of the United States.

When she does tap into those values, she will defy the party platform and acknowledge that student assessment, teacher evaluation, instructional innovation and parental choice are all necessary components of the change we need to ensure that every child in America has access to the high-quality education they deserve. And she won’t back down.
For the sake of struggling children and families across the nation, I hope that Hillary will make the same choice I did that day at the rally: to be a good Democrat. It got her a good quote out of me that day, but it will get us something far more consequential, a brighter American future.

Chris Butler is a father in Chicago. This post was republished from his blog, Chicago Unheard.

Hillary Clinton is probably best on education, and that’s pretty damn sad

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History was made tonight as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be selected by a major political party as their candidate for U.S. president.

This is a moment, in my mind, equal to the time we discovered America would have a truly viable black candidate nearly eight years ago when Barack Obama was nominated. If Ms. Clinton wins in November it won’t only be another huge milestone, it just might save the world from a Donald Trump administration, and teetering toward end times.

That’s the good news. Now the bad.

Clinton has the best education plan of the leading candidates, and it’s terrible. Yes, I believe as president she will do many good things for people of color, LGBTQ families, women, and the economy. But one group will continue hurting: marginalized students.

The Clinton K-12 education plan only skirts the edges of what we really need.

Alyson Klein at Education Week is gently calling out Clinton has for her opaque K-12 education policy that supports early childhood education at the beginning of your child’s K-12 education, and free (or affordable) college at the end of it.

What happens in the 12 years between when your child sits in ineffective classrooms is your problem.

Once a fighter for accountability, interventions, and results, Klein says in 2016 the Clinton campaign is pushing a not-so-new idea called TLC, which reportedly stands for “Teaching, Learning, and Community.”

Such is the problematic nature of political campaigns, especially in a system where powerful interest groups can holler with money, lobbyists, and foot soldiers over the objections of individual voters, drowning out our calls for changes to systems that harm us.

In this case the powerful interests are teachers’ unions. At my most polite time of day I’ll tell you those groups are to education policy what Chevron is to environmental policy.

The effects of their influence are clear:

Clinton was once an accountability hawk, a supporter of student testing in grades 3-8 as specified in No Child Left Behind, but Clinton 2.0 is a defender against “overtesting” who now says testing should be used only to improve instruction and schools, not to hold the system accountable for better outcomes.

That’s like saying police body cameras should be used only for officers to become less brutal, not to address them when they hurt people.

Once a charter school promoter, Clinton has hardened on those schools and pivoted to “community schools,” a feelgood concept of schools that focuses more on social programs than teaching kids.

Clinton of old said “Charter schools can play a significant part in revitalizing and strengthening schools by offering greater flexibility from bureaucratic rules, so that parents, teachers, and the community can design and run their own schools, and focus on setting goals and getting results. Many of these schools are meeting the needs of students who had trouble succeeding in more traditional public schools.”

More recently she suggested, as the unions have told her, that charter schools don’t take the most needy students. In fact, charter school students are more likely than district schools to enroll black, brown, and poor students.

In the 1990s she favored no-excuses schools, saying “I have advocated for highly structured inner city schools. I have advocated uniforms for kids in inner city schools. I have advocated that we have to help structure people’s environments who come from unstructured, disorganized, dysfunctional family settings.”

That would sound awfully paternalistic today. Now she’s for re-birthing welfare as we once knew it before her husband ended it as we knew it.

She was once pro-choice in education, saying “I believe strongly in a parent’s right to choose the best education for his/her child. We have a proud tradition of parochial and private education in America.”

No longer.

To be fair, she still – quietly – supports the Common Core State Standards that governors across states implemented to give the public an honest comparison of how prepared students are for college or good jobs. And, she still supports a role for the federal government to oversee the accountability systems developed by states under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

But, in exchange for union support she’s offered the single worst trading chip. She promises to be a president that will keep her peering eyes and meddling hands out of their classrooms. She will assume that all teachers are good (despite the best research on the matter).

She will place more focus on reducing child hunger, poverty, childcare, preschool, and repairing school buildings. She will give away hearing aids and wheelchairs to kids that need them. Teachers will get paid more (during her husband’s time as governor of Arkansas teachers got “the highest increase of any state in the country), and have more resources – including college loan forgiveness after 10 years of service. No longer will teachers be forced by some invisible hand of government to “teach to the test” (I smell an applause line).

A president Clinton will stop asking so much of teachers, like, demanding they be effective.

Given all we know, this is a bum deal. Public education happens between a teacher and student, in a classroom, over time. That is the point of sale, and the point of sale is broken for millions of kids. No credible person would propose ignoring teaching, teacher quality, and accountability for results as measured by student progress.

Strike that. No humane or caring person would do so. Only a political animal would be so nearsighted.

Here’s my challenge to you dear reader: I propose a drinking game that even people in recovery can play.

Watch the video below and take a swig of the most potent alcohol you can find every time Clinton mentions a policy proposal that will hold states and school districts accountable for the single most important school-based contributor to student achievement (teachers).

I bet you dollars to donuts at the end of this speech, and the end of this game, you will still be remarkably sober, and American children in the worst schools still won’t have the quality teachers they so desperately deserve and need.

Klein’s article provides a very useful tool to compare Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the issue of education. See it for yourself here.

Maybe it’s not fair to say Hillary Clinton has turned her back on education reform

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We can barely keep up with Hillary Clinton’s positions on education issues. As a long time supporter of school reform, dating back to her days as the first lady of Arkansas, Clinton scared fellow reformers when she walked back support for charter schools after receiving endorsements from teachers’ unions for her presidential campaign. In the past week she’s confounding more of us with comments that are artfully for and against annual testing of students. In the blog post below Laura Waters seeks to find the real Clinton position on education.

Deconstructing Hillary Clinton’s Education Reform Agenda

I’ll be honest: until I read this Newsday interview with Hillary Clinton where she said that she would opt her granddaughter into state standardized tests, this  lifelong Democrat, was pretty anxious about the presidential election. Heck, I almost felt like opting out of voting. Sure, I felt the Bern a bit  and still get the odd hot flash now and then but  the gun thing for me is a non-starter.  That leaves  Hillary, likely nominee, smarter than anyone,  tons of baggage  (hard to avoid as Ms. FLOTUS to Mr. Flauntus, Secretary of State, and two-time presidential candidate)  and, judging by media coverage, in the pockets of both big labor and big business.
So there I was contemplating stepping into a voting booth and ping-ponging between someone who looks just like my uncle and someone who so rigidly adheres to canonical teacher union rhetoric that  AFT  leadership endorsed her before their members even had a chance to vote. (Hey, Randi, the renewed vigor of Badass Teachers Association? That’s all on you.)

And the Republicans? Oy vey. It’s like they’re waiting  to see if Trump and Cruz will be swept up in the Rapture in the Quicken Loans Convention Hall in Cleveland  (I’m really not sure how this works) and Paul Ryan and Kasich?/Rubio?/Romney? ascend  to lead all faithful to victory. Way too mythological for my taste.

So imagine my relief when I read last night that  Hillary might be for real after all, not just a patsy to big labor but authentically aware that the behemoth that we call public education isn’t working for vast numbers of children: those of color, those with disabilities, even those who go to “good” suburban schools. Hey, maybe she read Education Post’s remediation report that describes how 1 in 4 students who enter college the fall after high school graduation have to take remedial courses at an annual cost of $1.5 billion. Or maybe she saw an advance copy of Shavar Jeffries’ column where he writes,

What anti-testing advocates are failing to tell our parents and communities is that getting rid, or opting out, of standardized assessments disproportionately harms poor students and students of color who are already in areas plagued by a lack of resources, where high-poverty schools struggle to offer advanced classes and attract good teachers and counselors. These communities depend on the insights gleaned from testing for funding and allocations that are intended to direct resources where they’re needed the most – in order to actually address the systemic inequities holding too many of our kids back from reaching their fullest potential. That’s what civil rights groups have learned over the past two decades. That’s why they strongly support these policies.

Is Hillary listening? According to Newsday, she is:

Not surprisingly, the Wellesley Class of 1969 valedictorian doesn’t believe in skipping exams, and she probably wouldn’t opt out granddaughter Charlotte from New York’s standardized tests, if it were up to her.

(Okay: reality check: Charlotte will probably go to a private school like tony Dalton at $44,640 per year, so standardized testing isn’t really an issue. But still…)

Clinton has serious reservations about how the Common Core rollout and testing have happened in New York, even as she supports tough national standards and standardized tests in general.

Hey, I can live with that. Too much too fast. We know this. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Fine. She supports college and career-ready standards and aligned tests.

She gave a little history lesson on Common Core, reminiscing that the creation of the national standards was a bipartisan idea of the nation’s governors that practically everyone supported. She’s right. Until kids started failing to pass the tougher tests and meet the tougher standards, everyone was in favor of them.

(Newsday knows of what it speaks. Wing away, helicopter parents!)

Regarding school choice, Ms. Clinton supports successful public charter schools, particularly as labs that can help find the best educational methods and bring those methods back into the public schools. She make it clear she’s not crazy about “for-profit” charters.”

Hmm. That “lab” reference is code for “limited role for charters” and that’s not something that will sit well with New York City parents, especially those of color who are increasingly clamoring to get their gets into successful charters like Success Academy. In fact, SA just announced that they received 20,000 applications for the available 3,228 slots, almost 7 requests for every opening.

I still have lots of concerns about Secretary Clinton’s credibility on education issues. Will she repeat what she said to Newsday to Randi Weingarten’s face? Will she stop letting her husband speak for her? Or will Democrats like me face an impossible choice in November?

Laura Waters writes compelling and informative commentary about education issues in New Jersey and beyond. This was republished from her blog NJ Left Behind.

Evaluating Hillary on Teacher Evaluations

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I‘ll admit, I had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride on Twitter on Monday.

It all started when I saw this tweet, which made me angry:

However, when I saw this tweet, I was hopeful that maybe Hillary’s “huge break” with Obama’s education policies wasn’t all it was cracked up to be:

But my mood plummeted once again when I saw this tweet from Hillary’s long-time friend and supporter, Randi Weingarten:

That last tweet, of course, refers to Hillary Clinton’s comments during a recent roundtable discussion hosted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in New Hampshire. Clinton briefly touched on the topic of teacher evaluations when asked for her thoughts on the increased emphasis around testing under the Obama Administration:

“I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence. Now, there is some evidence that it can help with school performance. If everybody is on the same team and they’re all working together, that’s a different issue, but that’s not the way it’s been presented…”

Over the past few years, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has prodded states to adopt teacher evaluations that incorporate value-added measures (VAM) of student performance by tying them to both Race to the Top and waivers from No Child Left Behind. Teachers unions and their supporters have pushed back against the policy, claiming that VAM is unreliable and is strongly influenced by factors outside of the classroom, such as poverty.

So is Hillary right to be skeptical about incorporating using students’ test results in teacher evaluations? Here’s a few things to keep in mind about recent efforts to judge teacher performance:

I. Nobody evaluates teachers on the basis of test scores alone

Reform critics often make the claim that teachers are losing their jobs based on the outcome of a single test. That’s simply not the case. To my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong), there isn’t a single state that evaluates its teachers on the basis of test scores alone. In most places, test results only account for a fraction of a teacher’s overall evaluation score, which otherwise rely heavily on the results of classroom observations by school administrators.

Moreover, teacher evaluation laws in most states stipulate that teachers can only be terminated after they’ve been rated “ineffective” on two or more annual evaluations. So, to be clear: No, teachers are not being fired on the basis of a single test score.

Actually, this should say, "We don't grade teachers solely on tests."

Actually, this should say, “We don’t grade teachers solely on tests.”

II. Clinton is correct that pay-for-performance schemes haven’t worked

It seems logical to imagine that school districts could be able to increase achievement by offering performance bonuses to teachers whose students beat expectations on annual standardized tests. However, Clinton is correct that numerous studies  have shown that pay-for-performance schemes don’t lead to gains in achievement.

That being said, it’s important not to conflate performance bonuses with efforts to differentiate teacher compensation based on performance or other factors. Collective bargaining agreements often involve a fixed salary scale in which teacher pay is based on credentials and years of service. Unions have resisted efforts by some districts to adopt a more flexible compensation approach which can take into account other factors like prior performance, subject matter expertise, etc.

III. Studies show high value-added teachers make a difference

In contrast to Clinton’s assertion, there is evidence that teachers with high VAM scores have a long-term impact on student success. One of the most commonly cited studies on VAM comes from the economists Raj Chetty, Jonah Rockoff, and John Friedman, who tracked one million students from an urban school district from the 4th grade to adulthood to evaluate the accuracy of those measures, as well as determine whether high value-added teachers improve students’ long-term outcomes.

In terms of VAM’s accuracy, Chetty, Rockoff, and Friedman’s research determined the following:

“We find that when a high VA teacher joins a school, test scores rise immediately in the grade taught by that teacher; when a high VA teacher leaves, test scores fall. Test scores change only in the subject taught by that teacher, and the size of the change in scores matches what we predict based on the teacher’s VA.”

The three economists also revealed that high-value added teachers had a significant, long-term impact on their students – an impact that persisted well into adulthood:

“We find that students assigned to higher VA teachers are more successful in many dimensions. They are more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods, and save more for retirement. They are also less likely to have children as teenagers. Teachers have large impacts in all the grades we analyze (4 to 8). Teachers’ impacts on earnings are also similar in percentage terms for students from low and high income families.”

Chetty, Rockoff, and Friedman showed high-value added teachers have a demonstrable impact on students.

Chetty, Rockoff, and Friedman showed high-value added teachers have a demonstrable impact on students.

IV. States haven’t always used VAM in productive ways

I support rigorous teacher evaluations that incorporate student performance measures, but some states have used VAM in ways that are ultimately counterproductive to the effort to ensure that every classroom has an effective teacher. Since a majority of teachers are assigned to grades or content areas that are not assessed by state standardized tests, that means they don’t receive VAM scores every year. This poses a dilemma for policymakers who want to include an objective component like VAM into every teacher’s evaluation, but how do you do that for a music teacher?

Some states (Florida and New Mexico being two such examples) have opted to include a school-wide student growth measure in the evaluations of teachers in non-tested grades and subjects. Essentially, this means those teachers are being evaluated, in part, on their students’ performance in other classes. Not only is this approach illogical and fundamentally unfair, it also gives ammunition to those opposed to evaluation reform who argue that the system is rigged against teachers.