30 Issues: Education

True/False: Obama Has A Republican Education Policy

Friday, October 01, 2010

Jennifer Cohen, policy analyst with the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, and Damon Hewitt, director of the Education Practice Group at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) talk about partisanship and the Obama administration's education policy. Then, Elizabeth Green, editor for Gotham Schools, looks at the Cuomo and Paladino positions on education.


Jennifer Cohen, Elizabeth Green and Damon Hewitt

Comments [16]


It's not always that parents don't care, but that many poor parents, often the third or fourth generation mired in poverty, don't know things about good parenting that their more affluent counterparts consider to be common knowledge. These poor parents often have low skills and, therefore, cannot assist their children with homework. They sometimes have dysfunctional behaviors, including violent child-rearing practices, that foster aggression and lower confidence. And they often don't understand basic health and hygiene, which is why we see a whole class of youngsters who are grossly obese.

It cannot be denied, however, that there are children in our public schools who are under tremendous stress because of the neighborhoods they live in and the dysfunctional (often teenage) parents who raise them. The academic problems that inevitably result become a race issue because poverty is still a race issue, not because African American children are being treated differently within the system. In fact, as a society, we should be very wary of recent trends to create single-sex classrooms and adopt teaching methodologies, ostensibly to help those "troubled" students. The result could simply be to ensure that they continue to be undereducated and unable to compete at the same level as their middle class counterparts.

Parents are also alarmed when "normal" students are subjected to the same types of "corrective" interventions as "disadvantaged" students -- dumbed down reading and math curriculae, low expectations for learning, etc. We are seeing in New York City a dramatic decline in the top performing students because of such tactics. Why would we sacrifice our brightest students, and yet that is exactly what is happening.

Oct. 02 2010 04:19 PM
Gerry from NJ

I challenge any charter school to take only our at-risk students and clean up our public schools. (I'm talking students who are very low in academics and/or have serious behavior issues)

If they are so unbelievably great, take the students that the public schools can't seem to educate or control and achieve positive outcomes.

Why not work with the unions and take the students that the districts recommend as at-risk students. It costs the districts so much money to send a student out of district.

Why would a charter school be so against that? It's no coincidence that their so called "open" enrollment is ONLY OPEN TO STUDENTS WITH PARENTS THAT ACTUALLY CARE about their son or daughters education. Which of coarse is usually not the 1 or 2 students in each classroom that make it so difficult to teach.

Come on Now - Wake up and see what's going on!!! A big advertisement for privatizing our public schools. Work with us NOT against US.

Oct. 02 2010 10:17 AM
NJ Citizen

I is funny how in the midst of change we sometimes have trouble seeing what we are changing to. Charter schools allow for something in our ed. system that resonates with our established research. We no recognize 8 different kinds of intelligence (Gardiner's research), and happily we are allowing charter schools to focus on one or two of these 8 and advertise for suitable students. In doing so the promise of reducing bullying and increasing a sense of belonging among the students is being checked out for its effect on performance. Science and math schools, performing arts schools, special needs schools, etc. are examples. I think that we will find out in a short time that a major problem with our schools is that they are too homogenized and not granular enough. Let the 'apple' students go to the 'apple' school, and the 'orange' kids get a comparable, but not 'appleized', suitable 'orange' program in the 'orange' school.

Oct. 01 2010 11:54 AM
Adrienne from Manhattan

Why is it that private school teachers don't need NY State certification but public school teachers do?

I have an MFA in creative nonfiction, speak and can teach French and Spanish, am a published author, tutor private school kids, worked with the YMCA's Teen Action program in a NYC public school teaching writing skills and basic literacy, and taught a semester long writing class at a college prep charter school in Queens. I don't have time or money to go for a Master's in Ed, which, from looking at the curriculum and talking to friends who've done it, is purely bureaucratic and intellectually useless.

Oct. 01 2010 11:43 AM
Lou Panico from Linden NJ

If anyone was wondering about how the Republican Party views the issues facing the country in education, all you need to do is take a peek here in New Jersey where we have a Republican governor who has equated teachers to drug dealers who use their students as drug mules to ferry information to their parents about how they should vote on school budgets.

Oct. 01 2010 11:41 AM
Amenan from Brooklyn

Concerning boarding schools that accept 5-year-olds: look up Milton Hershey School, a K-12, free-of-charge boarding school for lower-income children located in Hershey, PA. I graduated from MHS in 2001.

Oct. 01 2010 11:39 AM

Thank you Brian for bringing up class size as an issue. For the past thirty years+ this is what education experts has recommended for improving school performance. Have we done it? No. It sounds like a small, achievable step. It would also be easier to measure teacher performance. Why hasn't this been incorporated as a solution?

Oct. 01 2010 11:33 AM
Pamela from Long Beach

What about students who are not college-bound? No one is addressing preparing these students for a career; instead these children are labeled failures because they can't/won't pass the standardized tests. The failure cycle is part of what is destroying the current generation.

Oct. 01 2010 11:28 AM
Scott from Brooklyn

I went to Bank Street College and experienced a quality educationa a a teacher. I think that the conversation about education is in the worst place in the past 20 years- testing, race to the top, charters, denying tenure, merit pay- everyine is flailing, just flailing at the problem and history will judge us harshly for our lack of focus. Great teachers are the solution and more men in the classrooms, especially elementry!

Oct. 01 2010 11:23 AM
Kevin from Brooklyn

Parents! Education is controlled by parents as much as it is teachers. Good parents have good students. It is very hard for a student to succeed in school when his education is only supported by the school and not his family at home.

Oct. 01 2010 11:20 AM
JP from New Jersey

First, who cares if it is "Republican" or "Democrat?" The important question is will it work?

Second, schools are not wholly to blame. Education is not valued by far too many Americans. This, I think, is the result of overly-expensive higher education.

If a student knows in 8th grade that they can never afford to go to college, why not just give up then? Moreover, families that cannot afford college sometimes scorn people who can and do afford to go to college, creating a sense that education is for elitists.

If we can make higher education affordable for everyone, then everyone will have a reason to attempt to succeed. That's the kind of trickle-down philosophy I can actually get behind!

Oct. 01 2010 11:18 AM

I taught and my experience mirrors John from ny's sister. We keep going on and on about "bad teachers" and hardly anything gets said about parental responsibility. Probably because that can't be legislated. Teaching was the hardest, most consuming job I ever had. When it was good - it was great. A bad day could make you cry. Tenure is a difficult topic - most teachers have stories about colleagues who get tenure and start laying back. Good teachers want to feel they have their jobs because they are good at them - not because they are tenured.
However, I was not re-hired for my non-tenured position (I taught for two years) because I did not buy a fundraiser ticket for the mayor of the town I taught in. This was referred to in my school as the "non-tenure teacher tax". If you paid it - you were re-hired. I guess I didn't take it seriously enough. But this procedure is pretty standard in Hudson County NJ. The mayor of North Bergen NJ is also a state senator and his own Asst Superintendent of Schools. What do you think that's about? I wouldn't be surprised if it were common in other places. It would be nice if this were addressed. But I think all politicians protect each other. Including our president and his advisors.
And merit pay is insulting. When merit pay becomes common on Wall St. then get back to me.

Oct. 01 2010 11:17 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

I wonder what the administration or the guests think about the results coming out of that school in Brockton, Massachusetts which was covered in the New York Times the other day. It was a giant, under-performing high school which turned itself around within a few years by focusing on writing in all classes. A fascinating case study which is far less expensive sounding than charter schools.

Oct. 01 2010 11:14 AM
Gail Miller from Brooklyn

I am the grandmother of a kindergartener at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn. It was announced at a parents Wednesday night that the Pledge of Allegiance will be broadcast to all classrooms daily. I understand that this unwise directive comes from the office of the Chancellor and that the principal of P.S. 8 plans to implement it. I object to having the Pledge of Allegiance broadcast into the classroom.

We know that legally, children can opt out of the pledge, but there is no way that can be explained to a 5 year old and it would be an unfair burden for older children as well. Kindergarteners are learning how to socialize in a school environment. We encourage them to participate in all activities and to begin to conform to rules and norms in an atmosphere of exploration and learning. This is not an age when we ask them to opt out, single themselves out, put themselves in a category different from their peers and their teachers.

I don't understand what educational benefit might be achieved from asking elementary school children to start their day with a loyalty oath. I'm sure that many in the school are citizens of other countries and it would be as inappropriate to ask them to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag as it would be for a U.S. student living or studying in another country to pledge allegiance to their flag or to opt to sit while everyone else stands or to remove themselves from the classroom during the pledge.

Oct. 01 2010 11:12 AM
Ken from Little Neck

John, very well said. My wife is a teacher and she couldn't agree more with you. Her favorite example is this: teachers spend at most 45 minutes a day with a particular student, while their parents (hopefully) spend many hours a day. Who is going to have more of an impact?

Oct. 01 2010 11:10 AM
John from ny

I listen to many discussions regarding education, but feel that it's also the responsibility of the parents and some just do not care.
My sister is an inner school teacher and she tells me many stories about parents who doesn't want to be bothered and doesn't care.
All I keep hearing are about bad teachers and accountability, but who is going to hold bad parents accountable? Bad parents can't be fired.

Oct. 01 2010 10:17 AM

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