Friday, July 22, 2016

At GOP Convention, Even Some Delegates Clueless on Trump's Education Stance

Are you mystified as to where Donald Trump stands on education policy?

So are some of the people attending the convention here, where Donald Trump officially received the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday.

"I don't know what his views are on education," said Sue Sharkey, a member of the board of regents for the University of Colorado and a delegate from the Centennial State who supported Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the Republican primary. "I don't think he's really put a lot of thought into it. And I think his understanding of Thumbnail image for electionslug_2016_126x126.jpgeducational issues is probably pretty shallow."

Jonathan Hayes, a 20-year-old alternate delegate from Pennsylvania, is on the same page.

"The bombastic rhetoric of Donald Trump has overtaken" any talk of education, said Hayes, who had been hoping that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would get the GOP nomination. "I don't think he has education listed as an issue on his website. So I'm very disappointed in that."

Hayes, a history buff who wore a hat with a button celebrating every GOP Hat.jpgnominee from President Theodore Roosevelt to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, is a first-generation college student. He sees education as critical to advancement, which is why he's especially disappointed about the lack of specificity on the issue from Trump.

So far, the convention speeches haven't helped matters, even though some of Tuesday's speakers, such as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Speaker of the House, have long education records. In fact, the biggest K-12 moment of the night came from Donald Trump, Jr., who said his father would go big on school choice and attack teacher tenure.

Even some members of Congress here are in the dark. 

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill, said he "didn't know" where Trump stands on education, but quickly added that he's hopeful that a possible President Trump would embrace the local-control spirit of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, the law to replace No Child Left Behind that passed late last year.

"He's an unknown as a candidate, and there are positives with that," Davis said in an interview at a small reception hosted by the National Education Association for Republicans with whom it has a good working relationship. "Hopefully he's going to listen to the folks who have worked in public policy before he got into politics."

Davis isn't the only lawmaker in wait-and-see mode. The two most important Republicans in Congress on K-12 issues—education committee chairmen and ESSA architects Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.—told me earlier this summer they didn't know where Trump stands on K-12 policy.

Alexander, though, sounded more optimistic in an interview in Cleveland this week. He told me he asked Trump about ESSA when the mogul met with Republican senators, and got an assurance that the presumptive nominee was "very much for local control." 


Profit and Education Aren't Mutually Exclusive

Are for-profit charter schools a friend or foe of K-12 education in the United States? The question has taken on a sense of urgency within the past year as public commentary about them has largely been comprised of horror stories, including a case of false attendance reporting by Ohio Virtual Academy last May and, last week, a case of academic negligence by California Virtual Academies and Virginia-based K12, Inc. (Though California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris' public account of that case has been forcefully disputed in The Wall Street Journal.) These cases have encouraged criticisms of for-profit charter schools and calls to close down the entire for-profit sector.

Of vital importance to this call is the notion that for-profit schools harbor a motive that makes them incapable of educating children – namely, a profit motive. Adults who aim to make money cannot have children's best interests at heart because they will look for opportunities to cut costs in an effort to pay shareholders rather than direct all available funds toward children's education. The conflict of interest created by this profit motive renders for-profit schools incompatible with public education.

This is nonsense. Education is not the only sector that provides public goods. Indeed, there are many public goods handled by private companies: hospitals, prisons and transportation systems operated by for-profit providers ensure public health, public safety and public transportation. In none of those cases does profit motive necessarily dispose the company to abdicate its mission of serving the public. In these cases, companies' ability to provide the best product possible is aligned with their ability to make money and pay their shareholders. Far from giving up their social missions to seek profit, they need to serve the public both to accomplish that mission and gain profit. Without mission, no profit. The mission is and must be primary.

The circumstances in the education sector do not nullify this logic. If an education company has a mission to provide excellent schooling for students, then it either fulfills its mission or it doesn't. If it does, then it is a worthy contractor and its charter should be renewed; if it does not, then its charter should be revoked. The for-profit K-12 charter sector can't be dismissed wholesale through the fallacious "profit motive" argument.

Facts on the ground bear out that for-profit education providers are capable of performing admirably. Charter Schools USA, a for-profit founded in 1997 that operates 70 schools across seven states and serves 60,000 students, had one of its Florida schools named in The Washington Post's 100 Most Challenging Schools. SABIS International Charter School, a for-profit charter high school opened in 1995 in Springfield, Massachusetts, has received a Silver Medal in the U.S. News rankings for the last eight years. And BASIS.ed operates two out of the top five high schools in the country, according to U.S. News.

But both supporters and critics of for-profit charter schools can toss examples back and forth to support their arguments. There are good and bad actors in every sector, and there are successful and failing schools in every sector. The goal of any person of good will engaged in molding the future of American public education should be to figure out the factors and best practices used by schools that are successful regardless of tax status and type. Those who pigeonhole for-profit charter schools because of a misconception about profit motive, as well as those who defend failing schools simply because of the fact that they are public, are failing students who need adults to have a frank, serious conversation about every mechanism for success at their disposal.

To that end, figuring out whether for-profits are friend or foe depends on figuring out what mechanisms they offer that nonprofit charters and traditional public schools do not. Mickey Muldoon, in his 2013 essay "The Costs and Benefits of Nonprofit and For-Profit Status," explains that for-profit status often means "investment money is easier to raise, growth and organizational agility are more natural, and there is more flexibility to attract top talent." There are no doubt circumstances that render for-profit status less desirable from an entrepreneur's perspective than nonprofit status – for example, easy access to philanthropic funding and political pressure that puts for-profits in low esteem in the eyes of the public – but the entrepreneurs Muldoon spoke with (and who represent a variety of political positions across the spectrum) ultimately recommended that educational entrepreneurs should consider for-profit status when starting out.

In many industries, successful companies tend to fly quietly underneath the radar while news of bad actors gets loudly proclaimed. But the story isn't as simple as that in education, and dismissal of the benefits for-profit companies might bring to a troubled education landscape risks short-changing students. Not all for-profits use their unique capabilities for good, but not all of them use them for ill, either. Bad actors that hurt kids should have no place in the conversation or the educational landscape, but good actors and success stories should. Perhaps we shouldn't be asking if for-profits are all friends or all foes; instead, we should ask, what do the successful for-profits have to teach us about improving K-12 education?


Australian school bans clapping and allows students ‘silent cheers’ or air punching but only when teachers agree

WTF is silent cheering?

CLAPPING has been banned at a Sydney primary school which has introduced “silent cheering”, “pulling excited faces” and “punching the air” to respect students who are “sensitive to noise”.

The school now only allows its pupils “to conduct a silent cheer” when prompted by teachers and says the practice “reduces fidgeting”.

Elanora Heights Public School, which is on Sydney’s northern beaches, announced its new “silent cheer” policy in its latest school newsletter.

The latest example of a political correctness outbreak in Australian schools, which have banned hugging, singing Christmas carols, celebrating Australia Day and singing the word “black” in the nursery rhyme “baa baa black sheep”.

The ban on clapping at Elanora Heights Primary School emerged on the same day that an exclusive girls school banned teachers from calling “ladies” or “women” in favour of “gender-neutral” terms.

In its July 18 newsletter, the Elanora school has published an item under the headline “Did you know” that “our school has adopted silent cheers at assembly’s” (sic).

“If you’ve been to a school assembly recently, you may have noticed our students doing silent cheers,” the item reads.

“Instead of clapping, the students are free to punch the air, pull excited faces and wriggle about on the spot.

“The practice has been adopted to respect members of our school community who are sensitive to noise.

“When you attend an assembly, teachers will prompt the audience to conduct a silent cheer if it is needed.

“Teachers have also found the silent cheers to be a great way to expend children’s energy and reduce fidgeting.”

The ban follows a direction at exclusive Cheltenham Girls High School in northwest Sydney for teachers to avoid discrimination and support LGBTI students by avoiding the words “girls”, “ladies” or “women”.

Elanora Heights Public School’s ban on clapping in favour of silent cheering comes after several schools have banned hugging.

In April, hugging was banned at a Geelong primary school and children were told to find other ways to show affection.

St Patricks Primary School principal John Grant said “nothing in particular” had caused hugging to be replaced by high fiving or “a knuckle handshake”.

“But in this current day and age we are really conscious about protecting kids and teaching them from a young age that you have to be cautious,” Mr Grant said.

He said he had spoken to teachers about his decision to ban hugging and then the teachers had spoken to classes, instructing the children on different methods of showing affection. He had not sent any correspondence home to parents but said there would now be a letter going home on Monday.

“There’s a range of methods including a high five or a particular knuckle handshake where they clunk knuckles as a simple way of saying ‘well done’,” Mr Grant said. “There are also verbal affirmations and acknowledgments.”

Children at the school have been enthusiastic huggers, he said, with hugs given out to teachers and other children.

“We have a lot of kids who walk up and hug each other and we’re trying to encourage all of us to respect personal space,” Mr Grant said. “It really comes back to not everyone is comfortable in being hugged.”


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