Stubborn Facts About Obama Education Policies That No Amount of Convention Sugarcoating Can Cover Up

Obama Education PoliciesIf you watched the Democratic Convention, you would never know that the Obama Administration’s education policies were extremely controversial with America’s teachers and had provoked outrage among many of the nation’s most distinguished education scholars.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel spoke at the Convention without anyone mentioning that his policies had provoked an impending strike among tens of thousands of teachers, and that these policies were ones supported by the Administration’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Duncan also spoke at the Convention, making the incredible statement that “no teacher should teach to the test” when his Race to the Top policies requiring that teacher evaluations which were based, in part on student test scores, had resulted in “teaching to the test” everywhere those funds were distributed.

And finally, the President’s statement that “teachers shouldn’t be fired” goes squarely against the school closing component of Race to the Top, which mandates that schools designated as failing — again, by the criterion of test scores — should be closed, and 50% of its teaching staff removed when a new school is put in its place.

What was also not said is that the Obama administration education policies are the one part of its political program most praised by Republicans, and that Obama officials have effusively praised the education policies of two Republican Governors, Florida’s Jeb Bush and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.

And because these policies are likely to be continued no matter which party wins the Presidency, it is important to enumerate some of the negative consequences of the Race to the Top initiative that has been a hallmark of this Administration’s education policies.

The following are some stubborn facts about the consequences of the Obama Administration education policy should be aware of:

  • FACT ONE. Teacher morale is at the lowest level it has been in recorded history. This is in part because virtually every major leadership group has blamed teachers for the nation’s problems, but also because teachers job protections and job rights are under attack and because they are increasingly evaluated on the basis of student test scores.
  • FACT TWO: Special needs students and English language learner (ELL) students are everywhere experiencing humiliation, and occasionally outright discrimination, because students who do not test well are seen as threatening the careers of teachers and school administrators. It is in the interest of schools to exclude such students or push them out to maintain a positive test profile, a practice notoriously common among some of the nation’s best known charter schools.
  • FACT THREE: The teaching force in the nation is being steadily “whitened” as a result of school closing and teacher firings mandated by Race to the Top and the replacement of experienced union teachers in large city school districts with Teach for America Corps members.
  • FACT FOUR” Students throughout the country, even in middle class, high performing districts, are increasingly complaining that they hate school because of an enormous rise in the number and frequency of standardized tests and the elimination of gym, recess, sports and the arts to make room for test prep.

mark naisonThese problems will all intensify in coming years unless there is a radical change in the nation’s education policies. Based on what transpired at the Democratic Convention, no such change will forthcoming unless there is something close to a revolt on the parte of America’s teachers, students and parents.

Mark Naison
With a Brooklyn Accent

Posted: Saturday, 8 September 2012


  1. harry wood says

    In the 1930s, my semi-retired grandfather taught young men
    how to work with their hands. He taught
    at what he called a trade school for wayward boys and what might called a
    reform school. It was a school for
    homeless boys/young men, a place where they could learn a trade to use to
    support themselves and a family. They
    lived there year round until they were 18 years of age. My grandfather was the son of a well known Winchester
    tailor and he taught that trade at the Washington
    D.C. school for many years. Other trades were also taught. These days,
    most suits are ready made. Years ago,
    ready made suits were called rack suits.
    Now, it is hard to find a tailor who makes custom made suits for the
    average guy. My last custom made suit
    was made in 1968.

    The county north of mine uses high school drop out rates to
    determine the need for future jail cells.
    We should use it as an index of how many new seats we will need in trade
    schools. Those children need to be given some self-respect. People who graduate from jail pay very little
    back to society in the form of taxes.
    Working people with jobs pay taxes and are not on benefit rolls. If these young boys get into trade schools
    soon enough, it may keep them off the path to crime. The guard to prisoner ratio in jails would be
    higher than a teacher to student ratio in schools. The cost of a 24 hour trade school should be
    less than the cost of a 24 hour jail and offer both short and long term
    benefits and give self respect to the boys.
    Girls will do even better in high school.

    Today we send young boys to a different school. They get in trouble and we send them to
    jail. The bad thing about sending young
    boys to jail is that a jail is also a school.
    The older males teach the younger males how to be better criminals. I am sure they tell them there is no future
    hope for them and now that seems to be true.
    If I could use tax money to build something, it would be a school for
    troubled children. Get them off the
    streets and teach them how to fix things, how to be a chef, an electrician, an
    auto mechanic, a plumber, or a carpenter. Teach them something useful and let
    them grow up to be tax payers. Perhaps
    such trade schools would be a cheaper solution than the new jails and may have
    better long term results.

  2. Annette says

    We should triage students and direct most of our funding to help those who will benefit the most. We have it backwards right now, with most of the public resources going to the problematic kids.
    High achievers and rich students will do fine with little extra help from teachers and schools. When they need help, their parents buy them tutors. They’ll be fine, they don’t need extra resources from our schools.
    On the other end, kids that are troublemakers or just plain dumb currently get most of our educational resources. Instead of stubbornly trying to get them to learn sophisticated subjects, they should be directed to trade schools, with the option to switch back to regular academics any time they want to behave or when they show scholastic promise. Right now, schools spend an extraordinary amount of money on kids that have no intention of ever doing their share of work and will likely not benefit from all the funds school districts throw at them. Some kids are just never going to be successful in life no matter what we do to help them. So why are we so obsessed with keeping them in school? We pay millions of dollars for programs for these kids trying to keep them from quitting school. Let them quit, and let’s focus on the students who actually want to be there!
    We need to make tough choices, offer all students the best education they want and are willing to work for, but let them go down the failing path they are on if that’s what they choose. It’s a waste of money to continue to offer them programs designed to keep them in school. They’re just messing it up for those kids who really do want to make their lives better, and who are willing to do the work it takes. We need to stop pouring millions of dollars into programs that only help the worst students, and start demanding that students earn the right to an academic education by doing their share. If they can’t behave or don’t bother to do their homework, then let them learn a trade instead, with the option to come back to academics whenever they’re ready to participate without degrading the educational experiences of other students.
    We need to direct most of our resources to those kids in the middle who are regular students willing to behave and work hard, including doing their homework. They are the ones will benefit the most from educational supports. Let the teachers focus on regular students instead of having to deal with the troublemakers all the time. We simply need to triage students, eliminate the troublemakers and those choosing drugs over academics, and focus our resources on those students who will benefit the most from our educational supports.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *