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.


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