I fell asleep last night during the democratic debate and I dreamt this is how it all unfolded. The scary part was there were no answers to the questions about education when I woke up.
In my dream Anderson Cooper said:
America’s democratic public schools, how we treat and instruct the next generation, our children, so our way of life will thrive and we will be revered throughout the world, is one of the most import issues facing us—a free nation—today.
Here are questions Americans want answered about their schools. No matter what any of us think about these issues, they should be discussed. We need to understand clearly what our future President believes about public schooling and student learning.
Here are the questions:
Early Childhood Education
- Everyone touts early childhood education, but what do you mean by that? Americans are tired of hearing about this in every election. What is your specific plan for young learners?
- What about recess? We all know that the research shows that activity helps children be healthy and that children who play are creative and more engaged in school. What will you do to bring back this important time-honored break for children? Not to belabor this but do any of you want to speak to the fact that not providing children recess is likened by many educational experts to being child abuse. Any thoughts?
- While I’m at it…what are your thoughts on play in preschool and kindergarten…heck…what about the importance of play and creativity to all of schooling? Aren’t new ideas born out of giving children and teens some time to think outside of the box?
- Many parents are concerned that children are being pushed to learn how to read earlier than ever before. How should young children be introduced to reading? When should they receive formal reading instruction, and at what point should they get reading remediation if they are not reading?
- Special education services are being cut across the country. Whatever happened to Public Law 94-142 and the real Individual Educational Plan?
- Have you developed plans to create better—and a variety of services for students with disabilities—so they will have a fighting chance to succeed in life and Americans will value their contributions to the world? Do you realize that many believe this important area of education is being eliminated? What kind of school programs should be offered for students with dyslexia and autism for example?
- How should public schools address mental health in children and teens?
- What are your plans for our most gifted students many who don’t have access to quality programs? And while we are at it, could you speak to those students who are both gifted and who struggle with learning disabilities—called twice exceptional. What is your vision for this population?
- How should we address the instruction of students with second languages? What kinds of programs will help teachers to assimilate students who are from other countries or those who are in America illegally? How can schools focus on the children and not the politics?
- Politico recently said that Common Core is a done deal. The American public is quite divided on this issue. Please cite some realistic studies (not from those who put out propaganda for CC) with actual findings that tell us Common Core is the best we can do for America’s students.
- Education experts like Sandra Stotsky, Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige have raised serious questions about Common Core. How do you address their concerns that Common Core is problematic?
- Because Common Core will be aligned to the SAT and ACT tests used for college admission in many public and private universities, does it not concern you that the curriculum will be too narrow and that students might not be learning what they need at the appropriate developmental levels to succeed? Should the College Board have so much control over our students?
- There are many concerns about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. How do you address these concerns?
- Many worry there is an effort underway to privatize public schools, that many businesses want for-profit schools. What do you think America will be like if that happens?
- Many parents are fed up with high-stakes testing and now the tests that accompany Common Core. They see it as a way to arbitrarily shut down public schools and create charter schools, like the for-profit schools I just mentioned, that are not accountable to the public. What will you do about this issue?
- Do you think we should still have local school boards governed by communities? Why or why not?
- Is there not a conflict of interest, if we claim public schools are public and owned by the people, when billionaires are allowed to dictate how our public schools, including colleges, should be run?
- Along those lines, many people have been sold on the idea of vouchers. Many students with disabilities get vouchers. Yet many of the private, parochial and charter schools are also not accountable to the public. How will you address this?
- Strict charter schools are a concern. Why do we as a nation permit five year olds to be kicked out of school for failing to pay attention? Is dreaming a bad thing these days? Don’t some creative ideas come from dreaming? Or perhaps the overactive child has a learning disability.
- There is a teacher crisis in our country we are told. Career teachers have been verbally battered by the press for years. Evaluation systems are cruel and unusual, and Teach for America, well-meaning young people who often can’t find jobs in their chosen careers, are being looked at as the teachers of the future. Is this the best we can do for our young people?
- Strict “no excuses” or “whole brain” or “Teach Like a Champion” or “Uncommon Schools” teaching is being promoted across the country as the way future teachers should be taught to teach. Stephen Danley an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers-Camden University has described this kind of teaching, and make sure you watch the videos HERE and HERE. Do you believe such instruction fosters creativity in young learners? Is this kind of instruction found in wealthy private schools? Or do you find this kind of teaching troubling?
- Some of you have mentioned class size…or Secretary Clinton maybe it was your husband President Clinton who once spoke in favor of lowering class size. Could you tell us what you would do as President to finally address this serious issue?
- What should be done to address bullying in our public schools…including cyberbullying?
- Which one of you will restore the arts—art, music and drama—to our public schools? Will you insist upon credentialed art teachers? Will you credit the arts for being good for children or will you use it to push higher test scores and keeping children in schools? Of course the arts might do both, but will you not support the arts for what it means to the students themselves?
- Should Relay Graduate School of Education replace a career teaching university program of instruction? Or should we bolster real education schools and treat teachers like professionals—like Finland?
- Exactly how are you going to deal with the college debt crisis? Senator Sanders has probably spoken the most on this one.
- What are your thoughts on virtual learning companies that divert millions of dollars from public schools but are not held accountable? Could you address… say K12?
- What are your thoughts on MOOCs and do you see an eventual conflict between online learning and brick-and-mortar schools?
Then I woke up and saw all the candidates shaking hands and smiling, and I heard they all behaved better than the Republicans and Bernie said to forget Hillary’s damn emails, but they didn’t answer one question about education.
When will America hold its Presidential candidates, from both parties, accountable for one of the most important issues in our country today? When will we tell them they can no longer be evasive when it comes to our children and our public schools?
I suggest they have a whole debate on education. The country is listening….
Stephen Danley is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration at Rutgers-Camden University. His blog which includes the Local Knowledge Blog deals with “research involving urban neighborhoods as well as partnership and protest in cities. He has a particular soft spot for both Camden, NJ and New Orleans, LA.” There’s more and he has received many honors…. Check it out.