Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hillary News & Views 11.17: Teacher Evaluations, Islam, Florida Campaign, and 9/11

Today’s Hillary News & Views begins with a major break from the Obama administration regarding education policy, opposing using test scores to evaluate teachers, moving away from charter schools, and increasing funding and support for public schools.

Vox reports:
"I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes," Clinton said. "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."
This is a direct shot at Obama's education policy. The Education Department pushed states to adopt policies that would link teachers' professional evaluations in part to their students' test scores.
She didn't criticize charter schools in the AFT roundtable, but she suggested she'd deemphasize them: "There are also great examples of excellent public schools, and they should equally be held up as models," she said, later adding, "They should be supplementary, not a substitute, for what goes on."
Clinton's solution for improving education sounded like ideas teachers unions have supported for years, including more federal money:
“I'm going to do everything I can to raise the federal contribution. There are two big areas of federal funding that I feel strongly about. One is the special ed funding, and the other is the Title I funding, the equalization of funding for poor schools. Those were the earliest levels of commitment from the federal government, and we haven't really, in my view, fulfilled either one, and we've gotten diverted off into a lot of other stuff. And so, I think I would do what I can to try to provide more support.

The American Federation of Teachers have released the entire transcript to their roundtable with Clinton. Here are some more highlights.

On supporting teacher unions:
I think there's been too much contention and lack of cooperation when it comes to education.  There's been a concerted relentless attack on unions, and in particular, teachers unions.  We know the governor from New Jersey has said he wants to punch teachers unions in the nose, and that is just so wrong.  It's so counterproductive.  It's just so unhelpful.
But what I think we have to do is really, starting today and moving through the election into the next administration, figure out what our priorities are, how I can be working with you, and how we can make the changes that we know will benefit kids and families and restore respect to educators and create an atmosphere in which we're all on the same team.  We're on the American team.  We're on the team that is going to actually get things done, not just talk about it or not just engage in insults.
On standardized testing, and its negative impact on instruction:
I was glad to hear the president make that statement because I certainly agree with him that I think we have become much too focused on testing, and there have been too many tests.  So I've said from the beginning of the campaign we need fewer, better tests.
I believe in diagnostic testing that teachers can use to try to figure out how to help individuals and classes deal with their learning challenges.  I do believe that there can be and should be a set of tests that everybody agrees on.  That's the way it was all those many years ago when I was going to school, and that's the way it was for a very long time.  So we do need as a first priority to figure out: What are the tests that should be administered? When? And what do we do with them?
And 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…
…I think with the ESEA, as I understand it, with the changes that have been made or at least we hope are going to be made, we'll move beyond that.  But then we'll have to do the hard work, and I would look to the AFT for advice on this.  OK, what are the tests, because you've got to have something? And what should they be, and how often should they be administered, and what should they be used for?  And I would be very open to your experience and your suggestions about that…
…[W]hat are we going to do to once again kind of open the curriculum?  If we're going to save time and stress from limiting the tests, then what are going to do about that?  What are going to bring back into the schools?
I think it's tragic that so many schools, and principally schools in poor areas that serve poor kids, have been stripped of arts education, of even PE, even recess time.  It's just crazy to me.  And so, we've got to be much more focused on how we re-create the classroom school experience so that kids have the chance for their talents to be recognized and blossom.  That's what I believe.
On special education:
When we accepted that opportunity to really get all of our kids in school, the federal government said it was going to pay 40 percent of the cost of special ed.  The most we've ever paid is like 17 percent.  I think that's one of the reasons why you don't have the services and the support that your students need to be able to get the education they deserve. 
So I have said I'm going to do everything I can to raise the federal contribution.  There are two big areas of federal funding that I feel strongly about.  One is the special ed funding, and the other is the Title I funding, the equalization of funding for poor schools... 
…Those were the earliest levels of commitment from the federal government, and we haven't really, in my view, fulfilled either one, and we've gotten diverted off into a lot of other stuff.  And so, I think I would do what I can to try to provide more support.  The same thing happened with No Child Left Behind.  The promise was there would be increased funding, and then it never came through.
So we have some work to do to try to get more resources directly into special ed, but we also have some research to do to try to figure out what's happening with these children.  Why are they in special ed, and is there something that could be done that we're not doing?  And is there a differential between special ed kids in wealthy districts versus special ed kids in poor districts? What works should be applicable for everybody.
On charter schools:
That's exactly what the original idea behind it was, and you're right to mention Al Shanker.  He was one of the leaders of the movement, and he did see them as laboratories, and he thought that the lessons would then be integrated into the public schools and would result in improving education in the public schools.  So there's no doubt in my mind that charters have to be held accountable.  There are good charters, and there are bad charters.
They have to be held to high standards, and if they are working like the one you work at, why aren’t there more using the model that you have pioneered?  And so, from my perspective, again, I want to go to the research.  What are the good models and where are they found, and how do you do more of what works instead of reinventing the wheel all the time? A lot of people show up and they want to do a charter, and they don't pay attention to the educational research.  They have a pet idea.  They may be, again, motivated to try to help kids, but they don't have the experience, and they don't necessarily know how to do it.
So let's look at what does work, like your charter school, which you said has been operating for eight years.  And there are examples of that, but there are also great examples of excellent public schools, and they should equally be held up as models.
And what I don't understand is why we can't do a better job saying, look, here's the kind of population you're serving, and here's a model that works. So what can we do to incentivize and fund more of those models, whether it's a public school, a charter school, and try to get more cooperation between the two?
So they should be supplementary, not a substitute, for what goes on.  And that was the original idea behind them.
On fads and chasing trends:
That's why I said in the beginning, let's get back to what does work instead of this constant reinvention, and the sale of new products, and the latest fad to come down the road.
Everybody feels so pressured to produce "results," but they then, I think, can be misled into adopting programs that are not particularly evidenced-based, that don't have a track record, and try to introduce those into either the curriculum or the teaching environment.  And I think we've been doing way too much of that.  I think we've wasted a lot of time, and money, and energy, instead of taking this deep breath that I'm calling for and saying what works.  What works for kids in special ed?  What works for kids in rural areas?  What works for kids who are impoverished but deserve the best instruction?  And you look to see where you can find examples—or what works for kids who are at risk of dropout—and you've got an example in Cleveland.
Every education problem that we face in America has been solved somewhere, and we act like everybody has to throw up the lesson plans and just deal every year, not just once, but maybe three or four times a year, to come up with this way you're going to deal with what is being asked of you…
…[F]rom my perspective, this has to be a collaborative effort.  School boards have to get out of the pressure that they feel to kind of produce results. The way you produce results is to produce an environment in which kids are able to flower, and learn, and not be beaten down.  And in many ways, that's going to take a lot more services than we have for certain populations of children.  But I believe it's doable.  I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if I didn't, but I think we have to change mindsets, and that may be as important.
The return of the community school movement:
We've got to figure out what we're going to do direct more federal help into what will work, not just get siphoned off into useless, unproductive projects.  And using the school as a magnet or as an organizing institution makes a lot of sense to me.
The community school movement is back for a reason.  It started actually back in the 70s.  The first community school was in Little Rock, Ark.  An educational expert named Betty Caldwell started a community school, and it was a community center.  It was a place where adults could go.  They could get job training.  They could get remedial education.  They could get all kinds of help, and then that fell out of favor.  We're always doing things that actually work and then they get expensive or somebody comes up with a new, "better" idea, and then we move on, and we leave behind the communities…
… I think what the AFT, and the Manchins, and others have tried to do in McDowell is an important effort, and I hope it will show some success so we have more help.  And we may have to consider even more drastic interventions because, at a certain point, the kids are the ones who are the most damaged, and it's true whether you're in an inner city in one of our great cities around the country or out in rural West Virginia.  It's the kids who suffer, and there is no doubt rural poverty is as, if not more, grinding with fewer opportunities…
…I will do what I can to support what's going on in McDowell, and I want to know what we can learn about what works. I want to know how we recruit and keep teachers like you because I know it can't be easy when you are dealing with life or death issues a lot of days, not math or other learning issues.  And so, part of my hope is that we look at what the real problems are and not get diverted all the time to the shiny object in the corner.  And that's what I'm looking at.
We have too many poor kids attending, too many poor kids without the resources they need, without the support they should get, and that's the real tragedy in education, and it's not test scores.  It's that we're leaving all these kids behind because we're not providing an education that will give them a fighting chance to get ahead, and that's just wrong.
Vox reports on Clinton’s strategic use of language:
At Saturday night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton argued that it's not just wrong to broadly blame all of Islam for the acts of radical terrorists, but also potentially dangerous to America's national security interests.
Clinton said:
I think that you can talk about Islamists who clearly are also jihadists. But I think it's not particularly helpful.
To make the case that Sen. Sanders was just making that I agree with, we've got to reach out to Muslim countries, we've got to have them be part of our coalition. If they hear people running for president who basically shortcut it to say we are somehow against Islam, that was one of the real contributions — despite all the other problems that George W. Bush made after 9/11 — when he basically said after going to a mosque in Washington, we are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism. We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression. And yes, we are at war with those people. But I don't want us to be painting with too broad a brush.
Since Muslim nations are crucial to fighting terrorist organizations in the Middle East — Jordan, for one, has participated in airstrikes against ISIS — potentially ostracizing these allies by decrying all of Islam can actually make taking on terrorism more difficult.
Politico reports on Clinton’s Florida campaign:
One number shows why Florida is Hillary Clinton country in the Democratic race for president: 152.
That’s how many top Florida Democrats — from current and former members of Congress to mayors to state and local party leaders and fundraisers — were announced Tuesday as members of Clinton’s Florida Leadership Council. The list is so big it took her campaign weeks to assemble it.
Leading the list of her endorsements is Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Eight of the party’s 10 U.S. House members from Florida have officially endorsed her, as have eight of the party’s 14 state senators and 28 of its 39 members in the state House of Representative.
Clinton’s campaign hopes the strong showing of support will give her a general-election edge in Florida. The state, which Republicans need to carry to win White House, tends to lean more Democratic in presidential election years. Most polls show Clinton runs neck-and-neck with various Republican challengers.
Clinton’s comments about 9/11 at Saturday’s debate is causing plenty of conversation.

The Huffington Post reports:
On Monday, her campaign doubled down, pointing to the same attacks as proof she is incapable of exploiting the tragedy for political gain.
"It's outrageous to suggest that Senator Clinton of all people, who went to Ground Zero … that she of all people would politicize 9/11 is an outrageous notion," Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on a conference call with reporters.
Fallon said Clinton had been instrumental in securing aid funding for the region impacted by the attacks, which included much of New York City's banking district.
Clinton's wide lead over a relatively small Democratic field also consolidates her contributions from Wall Streeters who want to support a Democrat. Financial elite contributions to Republicans are spread among a many more candidates.
Former House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also defended Clinton's donations from Wall Street. Suggestions that Clinton is beholden to her Wall Street campaign contributors is "not just morally offensive, it's truly stupid," Frank said.
Politico reports:
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended Hillary Clinton’s independence from her Wall Street donors Monday, after she was criticized for saying at a Democratic presidential debate Saturday that she received major donations from Wall Street financial firms because she helped them after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
In response to the suggestion from Senator Bernie Sanders that Clinton's major financial sector and industry donors must want something in exchange for giving to her campaign, Clinton said, “So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”
“I say, whoever you take donations from, you can’t let it influence your thinking,” de Blasio said. “I can certainly say there’s a lot of folks on Wall Street who don’t agree with her platform and her agenda, but she has stuck to it."
“She clearly strongly defended Dodd-Frank throughout," de Blasio continued. "She has spoken very powerfully about reining in executive compensation, about cracking down on shadow banking — she’s been strong on desire for closing the carried interest loophole. I think there are plenty of powerful folks on Wall Street who fundamentally hope that what she’s trying to achieve won’t happen. So I think she has clearly maintained the independence of her positions."
Hillary Men has a strong piece documenting the universal praise Clinton received for her work in rebuilding New York City after 9/11:
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta noted after the debate: "When people attack her and call her quote-unquote the 'Senator from Wall Street,' they ought to remember that she was instrumental in trying to rebuild an important part of the New York economy."
Indeed they should – because in some ways helping to rebuild lower Manhattan and defending a crippled New York City economy against cuts in post-9/11 aid demanded by right wing Republicans was a defining moment in the newly-elected senator’s career. And Hillary did it without grandstanding; she simply dug in and fought for New York.


  1. Once again the media FAILS to report the post-debate polls and focus group results--that Hillary won the Iowa debate overwhelmingly--AND the Republicans and their pals on MSNBC have totally distorted her comments on Wall St and 9/11.

  2. Perhaps we fail to realize the extent to which we can, as a group, start to do something about this scandalous anti-Hillary sentiment in corporate media. Media are not invulnerable, they just look that way, to people that are used to accepting their outrageous biases, with silent obedience and resignation.