Pages tagged "schools"


Education Messaging

 

Public education is under attack from conservatives who are, essentially, promoting a corporate takeover of public schools. To push back, you need to understand where voters stand on K-12 education issues. According to the Gallup poll:

On standardized testing: Only 22 percent of Americans believe increased testing in the public schools have helped school performance. Thirty-six percent say it has hurt schools and 41 percent think it’s made no difference. Fifty-eight percent oppose linking teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores. The public is simply not on the testing bandwagon.

On charter schools and vouchers: Two-thirds express support for charter schools, but surveys of parents show that what they want for their children is “a good quality neighborhood public school” (68 percent) much more than “more choices of which schools I can send my children to” (24 percent). Seventy-six percent of parents oppose spending on charters that comes at the expense of traditional public schools. Seventy percent of Americans flatly oppose private school vouchers.

On trust in teachers: By a margin of 3-to-1, Americans trust public school teachers. Many other polls show that teachers are among the most trusted of all professionals. Teachers are substantially more trusted than police, judges and clergy, and trusted three times more than bankers, lawyers and business executives.

On the quality of schools: When asked to grade schools “A, B, C, D or Fail,” only 18 percent say that public schools nationally deserve an A or B. Among the same Americans, 53 percent believe public schools in their own communities deserve an A or B. And among Americans with a child in school, 71 percent would give the school an A or B.

Because Americans like and trust their local schools and teachers, and because voters generally care more about how policies affect their own communities, you should lean heavily on arguments based on how an education policy will impact local schools and schoolchildren.

Say . . .

For our families and our communities, we need public schools that provide each and every child the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in life. But to accomplish that, we should recognize there are no standardized children; every child has different strengths and weaknesses. That’s why our schools must offer a complete curriculum provided by professional teachers who have the training to give the individualized attention every child needs. 

Why . . .

The monologue above uses four strategies that should be employed in any discussion of education.

(1)   Focus on the listener’s own children and neighborhood schools rather than education in the abstract.

(2)   Indirectly push back against the overuse of standardized tests and teaching-to-the-test by explicitly pointing out something that every parent knows—every child is different and requires individualized attention.

(3)   Change the narrative about school quality from average test scores to how well our schools provide each and every student the opportunity to learn and excel.

(4)   Insist that only professional teachers, rather than amateurs or computer programs, have the knowledge and skills to do the job right.

Don’t say . . .

Say . . .

The nation’s schools

High-poverty schools

Failing schools, failing teachers

Soft bigotry of low expectations

Student achievement

Our children, local schools, schools in our community

Opportunity to learn, to succeed

The American Dream

Teaching-to-the-test, one-size-fits-all

Each and every child is different, is unique, is an individual

Professional teacher; teaching profession

Why . . .

Our progressive goal is to offer high-quality public schools that provide each and every child the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in life. The American value behind public education is equal opportunity for all.

Instead of addressing the problem that too many children are denied an equal opportunity to learn, the right wing tries to exacerbate it with vouchers, or as they call them, opportunity scholarships. Their strategy is take advantage of the fact that Americans believe public schools outside their own communities are failing and, instead of fixing them, offer vouchers to enable individual students to escape. The political point of vouchers is to set some parents against others.

The right wing also appeals to Americans’ fervent belief in the market system and urges that parents be treated as consumers and schools be run like corporations. But schools are not businesses, teachers are not factory workers, and students are most certainly not products for sale. After more than a decade of right wing education policy, there is still no evidence that any of their proposals actually benefit schoolchildren.

The major difference between the partisans on education is that progressives accept responsibility for improving our public schools while conservatives want to abandon them. That’s how we distinguish our positions in public debate. For example, say you are arguing against larger class sizes:

Say . . .

Each and every child in our community deserves the opportunity to grow up to live a successful life. So every child needs excellent schools and professional teachers. Smaller class sizes help children learn because they allow teachers to spend more one-on-one time with each student, providing the individualized instruction they need. My opponent’s education policies would help only a few students and abandon the rest. I guarantee you, I won’t give up on the American Dream for any of our kids.

Why . . .

Whatever your progressive solution—whether it’s smaller class sizes, modernized school facilities and equipment, programs to attract and retain excellent teachers, a broader and richer curriculum—press the underlying value of equal opportunity. And also focus on what’s best for “each and every child,” which our listeners hear as their own child or grandchild. If your solution is more resources for public schools, specify how you’d use the money: “for art, music, science labs, technology—what every child needs to succeed.”

Finally, don’t repeat the anti-teacher and anti-child message frames. They do not support progressive arguments.

Don’t say . . .

Say . . .

School “reform”

Run schools like businesses

Achievement gap

There’s a “crisis”

Each child deserves an excellent education, personalized instruction

Opportunity gap

 

Why . . .

Our nation’s future is on the line. Progressives need to re-take the moral high ground on public education. A little smart message framing can make a real difference.


Education Policy

Our Progressive Vision: Our public schools must provide each and every child the opportunity to achieve his or her fullest potential in life. Children are not standardized; each one needs personalized instruction. That requires both fully qualified professional teachers and opportunities to learn outside of school. Every jurisdiction should: (1) provide adequate funding for public schools; (2) deliver instruction in a way that recognizes the differences in both the interests and needs of specific children; (3) create opportunities to learn outside of the classroom, including afterschool, arts and recreational programs, and libraries; and (4) make schools both safe and fair.

Adequate school funding

K-12 school funding was substantially cut due to the recession and most states are still providing less per student than they did in 2008. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi and Oklahoma each cut school spending by more than 15 percent. In addition, most states allow substantial disparities in per-pupil school funding from one jurisdiction to another. States and school systems should ensure that school spending is transparent (e.g., charter schools), that money is not wasted on consultants and standardized tests, and that universal pre-K is fully funded.

Personalized not standardized instruction

We must recognize that there are no standardized children; every child has different strengths and weaknesses. That’s why all schools must offer a complete curriculum provided by professional teachers who have the training to give the individualized attention every child needs. School systems need to deemphasize standardized tests and pre-packaged lessons, and instead hire and stand behind fully trained teachers who give each and every student the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in life.

Opportunities outside of class

A great deal of children’s learning happens outside of the classroom. Kids learn from art, music and dance programs, from athletics, nature and the outdoors, from games and hobbies, from afterschool clubs of all kinds, and from independent reading for pleasure. States and localities need to fully fund libraries, and support nonprofits that provide afterschool and summer school programs for disadvantaged youth.

Safe schools, fair discipline

In order to learn, children need schools that are safe and welcoming. Harassment, intimidation and bullying are well-known to impede students’ ability to learn. Students who are bullied are far more likely to skip school and earn poor grades, and many states and individual school systems have implemented safe school policies to address the problem. Yet, it is also clear that some school systems overuse their discipline processes, often in a discriminatory manner. The U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Education jointly announced national guidelines on school discipline that should be implemented at the state and local levels.

 

FEATURED POLICIES

Transparency in school spending

With the rise of standardized testing, pre-packaged lessons and charter schools, there has been a noticeable decline in public awareness of how education funds are spent. School systems should disclose exactly what they pay for tests, pre-tests and test preparation programs, as well as consultants and pre-packaged lessons. Similarly, states and school boards should insist that charter schools, especially for-profit management companies, are held to the same transparency requirements as traditional schools. Tax dollars should be invested in classrooms, not in padding corporate profits.

Pre-K for all

Children in poverty often begin school already one or two years behind their more affluent peers. One clear part of the solution to this education gap is universal, high-quality pre-Kindergarten. Experts in early education overwhelmingly agree that children who have two years of a strong pre-K program start kindergarten with much better academic and social skills and that this improvement helps those children succeed later on in school and in life. Studies have also shown that pre-K programs return benefits to the community of seven dollars for every dollar invested. Yet, only about 40 percent of America’s four-year-olds and less than 10 percent of three-year-olds, are enrolled in public pre-K programs. The best Pre-K for All legislation would serve all three- and four-year olds and requires licensing and accreditation by state officials for both private and public pre-K programs. This legislation would also encourage the use of nationally recognized benchmarks to develop curricula that balance direct instructional and play-based approaches, which ensures that children develop the cognitive, physical, and social-emotional skills they need.

Limits on standardized testing

In the more heavily tested grades, students routinely lose more than a month of instructional time because of standardized testing and test prep. Across the country, parents are rising up against this level of over-testing. States and school boards should commission an audit to see how much testing is done and determine the educational and financial cost. They should also limit standardized testing to the minimum amount required by federal law—and children younger than third grade should not be subjected to them.

Ban kindergarten and pre-K suspensions

In some jurisdictions, kindergarten and even pre-K students are suspended or expelled at an alarming rate. But putting a 4 or 5-year-old child out of educational programs is counter-productive and both states and localities can enact legislation to curtail this practice. 


Too Young to Test, End of Life Options, Ballot Initiatives and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group organized to raise public awareness on key issues and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. To join, click here.

Too Young to Test Act: A recent report from the Council of the Great City Schools found that there is far too much reliance on standardized testing in public schools, hurting schoolchildren, teachers and administrators. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires testing in grades 3-8, but most school systems go beyond that mandate and test in grades K-2 as well. This is developmentally inappropriate—the Too Young to Test Act would stop it.

Our goal is not to change beliefs, it is to change behavior: In almost every jurisdiction, in order to win political battles, we must persuade at least some non-aligned or “swing” voters. But these “persuadable voters” are hardly interested in or informed about politics and policy. Simultaneously, “confirmation bias” makes it almost impossible to change their beliefs. Read about how to handle the problem on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

End of Life Options: Tuesday, November 17 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the End of Life Option Act, authorizing medical aid in dying. The fact is, end of life policies are being enacted all over the nation. Come learn about it from our special guest, Charmaine Manansala, National Field Director for Compassion & Choices. Register for the webinar here.

AP analysis of the 2015 elections: The Associated Press concludes that it was not a good election for either party. Red states stayed red and blue states stayed blue. The full story is here.

Democracy won at the ballot box: Three very significant ballot initiatives recently won. Maine voters approved a strengthening of their Clean Elections Act. Ohio voters approved a bipartisan redistricting commission. And voters in Seattle set up a unique system of campaign finance called “democracy vouchers.” Bill Moyers explains here.

Latest Compendium of State and Local Legislation in 2015: What’s happened so far in 2015? Read about it in our Compendium. If you have additions to suggest, please contact mweiss@publicleadershipinstitute.org.


Public Services, Standardized Testing, Message Framing and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group organized to raise public awareness on key issues and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. To join, click here.

Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act: Millions of residents can’t easily interact with government agencies because they a have limited ability speak or read in English. The Access to Public Services for Non-English Speakers Act would require a city, county or state to take reasonable steps to provide access for many non-speakers of English.

Did Arne Duncan Just Surrender on Standardized Testing? Days ago, the U.S. Department of Education announced a major policy shift, claiming they would now help states and school districts to decrease standardized testing in public schools. One of the DOE’s proposals, to limit testing to 2% of yearly school hours, is meaningless. But there are other provisions. Read about them on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

Message Framing 101: Tuesday, November 3 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. This is an explanation of the fundamentals of message framing which we provide every year or so. We will explain the behavioral science behind why it is so hard to persuade people, offer three rules that help you structure persuasive arguments on any topic, and provide examples of how those rules apply to a wide variety of controversial political issues. Register for the webinar here.

Seattle plan would allow collective bargaining for Uber drivers: A landmark bill was unanimously approved by a legislative committee in Seattle to classify all for-hire drivers as employees instead of independent contractors.

End of Life Options: California Governor Jerry Brown just signed the End of Life Option Act, authorizing medical aid in dying. This Compassion & Choices webpage lists what is happening on the issue in many states all over the country.

Latest Compendium of State and Local Legislation in 2015: What’s happened so far in 2015? Read about it in our Compendium. If you have additions to suggest, please contact mweiss@publicleadershipinstitute.org.


Did Arne Duncan Just Surrender on Standardized Testing?

Days ago, the U.S. Department of Education announced a dramatic policy shift on standardized testing of public school students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, echoed by President Obama, admitted that a Council of the Great City Schools study was right—there is too much reliance on standardized testing, hurting schoolchildren, teachers and administrators. The Education Department, therefore, published a Testing Action Plan which they claim will help states and school districts to roll back over-testing, at least to some extent.

This about-face is astonishing because Arne Duncan is substantially responsible for our schools’ overreliance on standardized tests. He made evaluating teachers by student test scores a condition of both federal Race to Top funding and his Department’s waivers from No Child Left Behind (NCLB). And it was Duncan who forced states to add standardized tests in subjects like social studies, science, languages, and even physical education.

Read more

Automatic Registration, Charter Schools, Smoking Age and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group organized to raise public awareness on key issues and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. To join, click here.

Automatic Voter Registration: Oregon and California recently enacted legislation automatically registering to vote any resident who has a driver’s license or state ID card unless the individual opts out. The Brennen Center describes the momentum for this important policy here. Oregon’s HB 2177 is a simple model that any state can follow.

What Can We Do About Guns? Americans strongly support gun control: 93% favor background checks on all guns, 76% favor gun registration, 77% favor gun licensing. What we have is a political challenge. There are three practical things we can do to address the problem. Read about them on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

When to use political labels like Liberal, Conservative, Progressive and Socialist: Wednesday, October 21 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. Bernie Sanders embraces the label “Socialist.” Hillary Clinton said she is a “Progressive.” We’ll discuss which political labels are popular and which aren’t (e.g. “Feminist” and “Pro-Choice”), what to call yourself and what to call your opponents. Register for the webinar here.

Recommendations for Charter School Accountability: In most jurisdictions, the laws governing charter schools promote educational chaos. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform wrote an excellent report describing seven types of restrictions that should be placed on charter schools.

Should the Smoking Age Be 21? Pew’s Stateline published a recent article reporting that Hawaii enacted a law raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, a similar bill passed the California Senate, and such bills were introduced in seven other states. What about your jurisdiction?

Latest Compendium of State and Local Legislation in 2015: What’s happened so far in 2015? Read about it in our Compendium. If you have additions to suggest, please contact mweiss@progressivemajority.org.


Synthetic Drugs, Common Core Results, Progressive Economics and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group organized to raise public awareness on key issues and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. To join, click here.

Controlling Synthetic Drugs: One of the most likely causes of the spike in urban violent crime is the steep rise in the use of synthetic drugs. These substances, which are cheap and widely available in high-poverty neighborhoods, are believed to cause some to become unusually violent. The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws has three model bills here to deal with these “Novel Psychoactive Substances.”

Common Core “Results” Aren’t Actually Test Scores: Over the next couple of months we can expect a flood of PR efforts to tout the results of Common Core standardized tests. But these will be largely misleading because they will reflect subjective lines in the sand, not actual test scores. Read about it on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

Three Principles of Progressive Economics: Thursday, September 10 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. Americans generally understand conservative economic principles: free markets are essential, the rich deserve their wealth, the rich are job creators, government should be small and taxes need to be low. How do we push back and talk about progressive economics? Register for the webinar here.

State Earned Income Tax Credits: State EITCs are among the simplest and most effective of anti-poverty measures. Here is a simple explanation of the policy from our friends at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Auto Insurance Discrimination: Companies charge low-income residents more for auto insurance by increasing rates based on credit scores, occupation and level of education. Some states are now limiting what insurers can consider in calculating premiums, explains the Pew Trust’s Stateline.

Looking for policies to introduce in 2016? Our Progressive Agenda for States and Localities contains hundreds of ideas for new laws on many subjects, including hyperlinks to model bills. It’s all right here.


Common Core “results” aren’t actually test scores

A few states have now released results from the Common Core standardized tests administered to students last spring. The Associated Press recently published a story about it, and over the next couple of months we can expect a flood of press releases, news articles and opinion columns bragging about the “success” of these tests.

But nearly all the news and opinion pieces will be wildly misleading. That’s because Common Core “results” aren’t actually test scores. In fact, the numbers tell us more about the states’ test scorers than they do about schoolchildren.

Consider the AP story, for example. It says that, across seven states, "overall scores [were] higher than expected, though still below what many parents may be accustomed to seeing." But the only things that have been released are percentages of students who supposedly meet "proficiency" levels. Those are not test scores—certainly not what parents would understand as scores—they are entirely subjective measurements.

Here’s why. When a child takes a standardized test, his or her results are turned into a "raw score," that is, the actual number of questions answered correctly, or when an answer is worth more than one point, the actual number of points the child received. That is the only real objective “score,” and yet, Common Core raw scores have not been released.

Read more

Credit Checks, Death Penalty, Public Education and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group organized to raise public awareness on key issues and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans. To join, click here.

Prohibit credit checks for employment: Ten states prohibit or strongly restrict the use of credit checks in hiring, including CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, MD, NV, OR, VT and WA, because the practice irrationally discriminates against many people (like those who had earlier been sick or injured). The Fair Employment Practices Act, based on District of Columbia legislation, bans such use.

Time to kill the death penalty: Opponents of the death penalty can follow their consciences while simultaneously arguing from a strong moral and factual position: that we should instead spend society’s time and money on policies that actually reduce crime and make law-abiding Americans safer. Read about it on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

How to talk about public education: Wednesday, August 26 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. Public schools are under attack from conservatives who are, essentially, trying to demolish public education. To win this argument, we need to understand public opinion and use points of agreement to push back against vouchers, school closings, narrowing of the curriculum, and ideological attacks on teachers. Register for our webinar here.

New government accounting standards for tax subsidies now apply: For the first time, rules applying to both state and local governments require that Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs) include a wide range of tax subsidies. Read about it here.

E-cigarette usage surges, legislators respond: Ten percent of U.S. adults now vape, about four times more than in 2013. Big tobacco companies have largely bought the vaping industry. Many states and localities have responded with new laws, but there is much more to do.

Looking for interesting new policy ideas? Our Progressive Agenda for States and Localities contains hundreds of ideas on many subjects, including hyperlinks to model bills. It’s all right here.

 


Body Cameras, Conservative Message, Rent Control and More


The Public Leadership Institute is a nonprofit educational group that helps turn state and local elected officials, advocates and grassroots activists into progressive champions. To join, click here.

Police Body-Worn Camera Act: The indictment for murder last week of a University of Cincinnati police officer once again proves the need for police body cameras. The prosecuting attorney admitted that the officer would have gotten away with his alibi except that the body camera disproved it. The Police Body-Worn Camera Act is a strengthened version of South Carolina’s SB 47, the first law to require body cameras statewide.

Why is the generic conservative message so popular? About 40 percent of voters call themselves “conservative” and even most Democrats hold some conservative beliefs. Why is that and how should we respond? Read about it on IdeaLog, our blog intended to raise eyebrows and engage minds.

How to answer ten tough policy questions: Wednesday, August 12 @3pm Eastern, 2pm Central, 1pm Mountain, Noon Pacific. Let’s talk about some of the toughest questions in any political debate, like the death penalty, gun control, abortion and climate change. Bring your best answers and let’s have a real interactive discussion. Register here.

Cities now considering an old idea—rent control: An article in Stateline outlines a renewed interest in governments holding down the skyrocketing cost of rent.

In most states you don’t need a high school diploma to home school your child: Thirty-seven states have no requirement that home school instructors have at least a high school diploma, according to a study by the Education Commission of the States.

If you’re pro-choice and want to participate in a new PLI project, please contact us: The Public Leadership Institute is starting a new effort to win proactive pro-choice policies in both states and cities. If you’re interested in participating, please email mweiss@publicleadershipinstitute.org.  


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