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Notes on Education from the Republican National Convention

Notes on Education from the Republican National Convention

I'm so thrilled to have the good fortune of attending BOTH Presidental Conventions. This week I'm at the RNC in Tampa, and next week I plan to be at the DNC in Charlotte.

There have been a number of references to education in the various speeches at the convention. On Tuesday night, Ann Romney stressed that her husband would make education a priority of his administration, just as he had as Governor of Massachusetts, where she said the schools there were "best in the nation." Also that night, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took on the teachers' unions, saying: "We love teachers, not the unions." Last night former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about education as the new civil rights issue, noting that you can see what kind of education a child is receiving by looking at where they live.

I'm meeting and talking to lots of people here, and I'd like to share with you a conversation I had this morning with Elaine Miller, who lives on Long Island and has taught for more than 30 years in the New York City schools. An ELA and Social Studies teacher, she teaches special needs students at a middle school in Queens. During her more than 30-year career, she has worked throughout the city in various locations. She said she's a Republican because her values mesh more with the Republican value of less government. We had a very free  ranging discussion about education, and she noted that most teachers she speaks to feel the same, regardless of party.

About Teachers and Parent Engagement in Schools:

"Teachers work very very hard. Like any profession, such as doctors, there is a spectrum of quality and expertise. Values begin at home. They have to be instilled in the home. Parents need to follow their children in school. There are dIfficult challenges today -- single families, economic hardships, special needs. When children's education is neglected at home, they can't perform well in school. I don't  know how you create a value system without parents helping and supporting schools. I've not met a teacher who is not dedicated to educating youth."

On Dr. Rice's Speech  to the Convention:
 
"Condoleezza Rice is fundamentally correct -- look at the zip code -- you get an idea of the socioeconomic issues and how they affect families, and how parents' values about education affect the children's values.

I think of how when I was growing up my mother expected me to have a better life than my parents had. And it has improved for me. However it was always instilled in me that education is your way out of a situation. And that's open to everyone. It's the individual's responsibility to grab hold and take advantage. That's given to all of us."
 
Perception of Teachers:

"It seems as if the fundamental values of education in our sociey have changed to some extent. You walk into a school today and many students perceive teachers as their enemies, not their friends. Respect for teachers has changed. Teachers are no longer valued as a #1 commodity. The teaching profession is now viewed at the bottom rung of the ladder, not the top. Although they knew it was a good job, teachers never went into it for the money. The profession had respect and dignity.

Do parents support teachers? Some do and some don't. Some parents are ready to attack teachers rather than deal with the problem their child is having. Discipline in schools isn't the same as it used to be.  There are metal detectors in high schools; students run out of class into the hallways. Teachers are trying, but it's difficult without discipline."

Federal Control of Education

"Education was never meant to be federally controlled. It's a state and local power. It's up to state and local officials. We don't need a Department of Education. It should be disbanded."

Standardized Testing:
 
"The whole idea of standardized testing -- putting teachers' lives on the line -- for one day of testing is insanity. It takes the creativity out of teaching. It takes away the availability of the teachable moment. It makes teachers focus on the state exams and teach to the test. It's a cookie cutter approach to education."
 
When Joel Klein was NYC Chancellor, I wrote him a letter about state testing. I said: 'You are assessing a teacher on an exam a child is taking, but there are so many variables for students in the schools, such as a difficult home situation, the challenges special needs students face, broken homes, divorce, a death in the family, etc. A child is walking into an assessment and the teacher is also being assessed. How do you assess the value of a teacher saving a student's life. How a teacher has influenced a child is never tested. How do you measure the real contributions teachers make? When you know that a child is suffering emotionally and you make a difference in the life of a child, how do you test that?"

Gov. Chris Christie:

"I feel the union shot itself in the foot by becoming so political. I'm not against the idea of unions; workers need protection. But unions have become too political and that is their downfall."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Chris Wendt September 02, 2012 at 12:13 PM
@ChrisP re: "Do you think it is...ironic that...standardized testing is ok for measuring the ability of the students...but not ok to test the ability of the teacher "(?) What were the assessments intended and designed to accomplish? They were designed, as part of NCLB, to evaluate whether students understood or had mastered content at or about the level expected for their current grade level on the year of the assessment. There are four possible student results each with an associated "score": 1. Below grade level and requires remedial service to correct 2. Partially below grade level and requires supportive services to improve results 3. At grade level and does not require additional services. 4. Mastery, above grade level, and does not require additional services. That's it. Does this child require remedial services, or supportive services, or no additional services? Schools are then responsible to budget, pay for and deliver the required additional services. These well-intentioned NCLB assessments for identifying additional service requirements morphed into unintended (and invalid) comparison tools among schools within districts, and among school districts themselves. Now the special services assessments have been further stretched by federal bureaucrats with the intention of using them as teacher evaluation tools, for which the assessments are not designed and were never intended. I agree that the U.S Dept. of Education should be disbanded.
Hopalong Bernstein September 03, 2012 at 04:46 AM
The GOP is targeting the teachers unions. Fatass Christie was the KEYNOTE speaker. What more do you need to know? If you are a techer and vote GOP you are a damn fool
Vincent September 04, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Hop on this Bernstein. After that reasoming do you actually expect anyone to take you seriously?
Jack September 05, 2012 at 01:00 AM
The problem with you argument is one of choice. If you are I do not like the services from a corporation, we are free to do business with someone else. If we do not like the services from Delta Airlines, with all their union employees, we are free to fly on American Airlines, with their union employees. Same goes for automobiles. We can chose to purchase a GM, Ford, or Chrysler, or even a Nissan built with non-union labor. The issue many people have with teacher's is that they are a monopoly - a government controlled monopoly. There is no accountability. Parents have no choice. Oh sure, there is something of a choice for those that can afford a private school, because they need to pay taxes whether they have children in the public schools or not. In many cities, it is almost impossible to fire a horrible teacher precisely because of those teacher's unions. We pay their full salaries to sit in rubber rooms. Would you want your kids to have one of them when they move to a different school? And while it is true that teacher's unions lobby for their interests, the process is rigged against the "customer" - the taxpayers. When a corporation negotiates with a union, the company management is supposed to protect the interests of the stockholders. When politicians negotiate with the teacher's union, are they protected the interests of the taxpayers? Not a all. Every time, they give the unions whatever they want, buying votes and power with our tax dollars.
Hollingsworth September 05, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Anti-union sentiment is bringing us back100 years. It's an attempt by the super rich to squash unions.The super rich use the Republican Party as pawns to get total control of our wallets. When the Supreme Court allowed unlimited corporate campaign contributions, it gave a handful of multi-billionaires the ability to control our politicians-both Democrats and Republicans. So now, the only thing stopping this handful from world domination is the unions-so it creates an anti-union bias so that we blame unions for our woes.Yet each year the gap between the super rich and the middle class grows. The wealthy elite is using the Republican Party to do its dirty work in destroying the unions. Once they are extinguished-first public and then private unions-they will return to the days when fair labor practices did not exist.First they try to do away with collective bargaining. What's next? We need strong leaders to negotiate contracts that are in line with our communities.It's the goal of the 1% to make more money, but it's the responsibility of our elected officials to protect our health, safety and our wallets from being picked by the wealthy elite. Unions closed down sweat shops and gave us the 40 hour week for all Americans-not just union workers.Let's not buy into this Democrat/Republican nonsense. If we do, the American way of life will die, for without our middle class, what are we? We are becoming a country ruled by a handful of wealthy elite or in other words-Fascism.

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