The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: education standards

Poll: Most Parents Are Happy With Their Kids’ Schools, Despite GOP Culture War

Republicans are flogging a culture war focused on public schools, but it doesn’t seem to be landing with the parents of actual schoolchildren. A new NPR/Ipsos poll of parents of school-aged children finds people generally happy with their kids’ schools and teachers, and not foaming at the mouth over race and LGBTQ issues.

Education rated as the third-highest concern of parents in the poll, but 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “my child's teacher(s) have done the best they could, given the circumstances around the pandemic,” and 82 percent agreed that “my child's school has handled the pandemic well.” Republicans have largely moved on from trying to whip up rage about how schools have handled the pandemic, though, focusing more on demonizing marginalized groups and arguing that parents should be allowed to micromanage the curriculum. (Right-wing white parents, anyway.) But that’s not getting a lot of traction, either.

Three out of four of the parents polled agreed that “my child's school does a good job keeping me informed about the curriculum, including potentially controversial topics.” Small minorities said the ways their children’s schools taught about the issues being pushed by Republicans actually conflicted with their own family’s values: 18 percent for gender and sexuality, 19 percent for race and racism, and 14 percent for U.S. history.

And those numbers, small as they are, don’t mean that 19 percent of people think their kid’s school is too liberal on race and racism or 14 percent on U.S. history—the people who said the schools’ teachings clashed with their family’s values were as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. A Native American parent in Texas, for instance, told NPR, “It's more of a water-down effect ... [the teachers] kind of whitewash the way that history is taught to their kids.” That parent wants his kid taught more about the French and Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, and about slavery during the Revolutionary War, NPR reports. By contrast, a white parent in Wisconsin who thinks the schools are too liberal on these issues cited her son being asked to identify his pronouns and a teacher making “snarky comments about white privilege.” Equally valid and serious concerns about the quality of education, amiright?

If you listen to Christopher Rufo, one of the right wing’s major gurus on waging culture wars in the schools, critical race theory is a “two to one issue,” a surefire winner for Republicans. Go figure, though: The main poll he cites was conducted by the right-wing Manhattan Institute. But what about Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in November after he campaigned against critical race theory? Well, recent data has suggested that Youngkin’s advantage came from senior citizens, not from the parents of school-aged children, and it’s not the first data undermining the narrative that enraged parents turned the election to Youngkin.

Demonizing LGBT people and foaming at the mouth that teaching about racism or the contributions of Black and brown people oppresses white kids by making them feel “humiliated” might energize the Republican base, but it’s not a majority message. Banning books because they have LGBT characters or depict slavery as the brutal system of kidnapping, torture, and rape that it was is not a majority message.

Republicans are attacking teachers. They’re attacking vulnerable kids. They’re trying to micromanage what all kids can learn according to their very specific values, to the active exclusion of all others. These things matter—they are actively harming people—and they’re also not the political winners Republicans are confidently portraying them to be. The media needs to internalize these things in shaping its coverage, rather than allowing the Republican operatives regularly billed as “concerned parents” in their Fox News appearances to define what the parents of schoolchildren look like or think. And equally, Democrats need to fight back, vigorously and boldly, because Republicans really are overstepping on this.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

Republicans: History Classes Should Leave Out The Bad Parts

Republicans are always talking about how the government is way too involved in the American education system. So it’s completely logical that the Republican National Committee (RNC) took the time to write a resolution condemning the new Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History curriculum.

They’re concerned that the new framework, “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

For example, the RNC thinks that 17th-century colonists should be seen in a mostly positive light — and that students should not be taught about the consequences of American colonialism.

The RNC also criticized the curriculum’s framework for not including enough about the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the role that religion played in forming the United States, and important battles and military heroes.

The critics complained that they weren’t able to view sample tests, which is a standard practice, and that everything in the curriculum is required knowledge, meaning that students are not going to be tested on anything outside the framework.

The RNC asked that the College Board delay implementing the new framework for a year, and that a new framework be developed that allows students “to learn the true history of their country.”

It also requested that Congress and state legislatures investigate this curriculum, and that Congress withhold any federal funding to the College Board until the framework is revised.

The RNC isn’t the only conservative group that has a problem with the way history is being taught. American Principles in Action and Concerned Women for America wrote an open letter to the College Board, condemning the curriculum’s “consistently negative view of American history,” which highlights “oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country.”

The letter also complains that “colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed ‘a rigid racial hierarchy.’” So basically they have a problem with the fact that the curriculum will teach students that slaves and Native Americans were still oppressed after the American Revolution.

The groups are also upset with the framework’s portrayal of Manifest Destiny as something that “was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority,” and that the curriculum focuses too much on some of the negative aspects of World War II, such as the use of atomic bombs and Japanese internment camps.

The College Board is taking this criticism seriously. College Board president David Coleman released a practice AP U.S. history test to the public, and announced that he will soon issue “clarifications” about the framework.

College Board spokeswoman Carly Lindauer told Education Week that the curriculum “is built to be flexible.”

“The new course emphasizes the American founding documents and their essential role in our nation’s history, and recognized American heroism, courage, and innovation,” she said. “College Board leaders continue to meet with individuals who have concerns about the redesign to listen and receive feedback.”

This isn’t the first time that the RNC has spoken out about education. Last year, it denounced the Common Core education standards, not just because they thought it was a government overreach, but because they believed a Glenn Beck-promoted conspiracy theory claiming that Common Core would collect personal student data from lab experiments.

Photo: Pesky Library via Flickr

Interested in U.S. politics? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

National Education Poll Shows Opposition To Standards, Support For Charters

By Theresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times

Results of a national poll released Wednesday show that many Americans are opposed to the newly implemented Common Core standards, although their reasons reveal they don’t understand them.

Similarly, the 46th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll gauging public attitudes toward public schools and other education issues, showed strong support for charter schools, even though many people surveyed had misconceptions about how they work.

“Given the increased media coverage this year, we were not surprised that an overwhelming majority of Americans have heard about the Common Core State Standards, but we were surprised by the level of opposition,” said William Bushaw, chief executive officer of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll. “Supporters of the standards, and educators in particular, face a growing challenge in explaining why they believe the standards are in the best interest of students in the United States.”

The results related to Common Core — which are a state-led effort to create higher learning standards in kindergarten through 12th grade English and mathematics — showed the most dramatic change compared to last year. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia originally adopted the standards, which have been criticized by opponents who allege they take local control away from schools.

In 2014, nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they had never heard of the new standards. This year, 81 percent said they had heard of them, and 60 percent said they opposed the standards, most saying because they believe they limit the flexibility of teachers to teach what they think is best.

Nearly three-quarters of those who supported the standards, on the other hand, said they “help more students learn what they need to know regardless of where they go to school.”

Michael Kirst, president of the California state Board of Education, said the poll results related to the standards did not appear to reflect what is going on in California. Contrary to the opinions stated, the standards actually allow teachers greater flexibility to communicate information in engaging and challenging ways to prepare more students for college and careers, he said.

“A lot of states, particularly with strong Republican and tea party roots, have had a lot of agitation about this and we have not had as much,” he said. “And some other states have rolled out Common Core in a very clumsy manner … they made the Common Core immediately accountable for schools and teachers.”

California is phasing the standards in more slowly, allowing time for teacher training and pilot tests this year, he said.

Kirst was also surprised by the poll’s results related to charter schools, which showed that more than 60 percent of respondents supported them, but thought they were religious and that students had to pay tuition to attend them.

“They’re badly misunderstood,” Kirst said.

The results were based on telephone interviews of 1,001 American adults in May. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Photo: Construct via Flickr

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

New Nevada Laws Make It Easier to Layoff and Fire Teachers

Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed new laws today that end teacher layoffs based only on seniority and make it easier to fire teachers that aren’t meeting certain standards.

The state will also move from a two-tier administrator evaluation system to a four-tiered one, and it will eventually make 50 percent of teacher ratings based solely on student achievement data.

“I am convinced these reforms are going to make a big difference in our kids’ lives, creating a better learning experience, ensuring Nevada has a better educated citizenry, and setting us on a path to long-term economic growth,” Democratic Assemblywoman Debbie Smith said. [The Las Vegas Sun]