K-12 Amendments to Dem Platform: Charters, Testing, Curriculum, and Discipline

Will Senator Clinton really support what Democrats set out in the platform for K-12 Education? Does this allow us to read the tea leaves for what kind of person she will pick for Secretary of Education or will the US be stuck with education reformer favorite John King if Senator Clinton wins the election?

Karen Wolfe posted yesterday several platform measures that passed relating to Charters, high-stakes testing, restorative justice and curriculum. You can watch the full discussion on the C-SPAN link.

Usually the platform is quite meaningless and it is not even debated all that much publicly, but at least Bernie appears to have positively impacted the outcome in a variety of areas. Here is what was added for K-12.

AMENDMENT 76 – Testing – passed unanimously

We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing so that it informs but does not drive instruction. To that end, we encourage states to develop a multiple measures approach to assessment and we believe that standardized tests must meet American Statistical Association Standards for reliability and validity. We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners as failing; the use of standardized test scores as a basis of refusing to fund schools or to close schools; and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers. We also support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or the school. 

Amendment #77 – A comprehensive curriculum – passed unanimously

We will invest in high quality STEAM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand linked learning models and career pathways. We will end the school to prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities and by supporting the use of restorative justice practices that help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment. And we will work to improve school culture and combat bullying of all kinds.

Chuck Pascal: Recognition that arts are important, too. Of course we support a well rounded education that also includes social sciences and humanities. The amendment importantly talks about discipline policies.

Karen wrote:

A secondary amendment also passed unanimously. It was introduced by Troy LaRaviere, a Chicago Public Schools principal and President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. If Pascal and Weingarten’s unity says something bigger about Clinton and Sanders—and it does—LaRaviere’s presence says something bigger about the Democratic Party. He has famously tangled with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the neoliberal Democrat who represents what some progressive education advocates believe has been the Party’s worst self.

The Democratic Party is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps, particularly those that lead students from low income communities to arrive to school on day one of kindergarten several years behind their peers from higher income communities. 

That means advocating for labor and public assistance laws that ensure poor parents can spend time with their children. This means being committed to increasing the average income in households in poor communities. It means ensuring these children have healthcare, stable housing free of contaminants and a community free of violence in order to minimize the likelihood of cognitive delays. It means enriching early childhood programming that increases the likelihood that poor children will arrive to kindergarten with the foundations for the expectations that we have for them in the areas of literacy, numeracy, civic engagement, and emotional intelligence. It means that we support what it takes to compel states to fund public education equitably and adequately as well as expand support provided by the Title I formula for schools that serve a large number and high concentration of children in poverty. 

It means that we support ending curriculum gaps that maintain and exacerbate achievement gaps. We’re also committed to ensuring that schools who educate kids in poverty are not unfairly treated for taking on the challenge of serving those kids. 

This means an end to the test and punish version of accountability that does no more than reveal the academic gaps created before they reach school.

We support policies that motivate our educators instead of demoralizing them. No school system in the world has ever achieved successful whole system reform by leading with punitive accountability. 

We must replace this strategy with one that will actually motivate educators and improve their training and professional development in order to get results for all students with an emphasis on equitable results for students of color, low income students, English language learners and students with disabilities.

Amendment #38 – Restorative Justice – Passed

We will encourage restorative justice and reform overly punitive disciplinary practices that disproportionately affect African Americans, Latinos and students who identify as LGBTQ. 

Amendment #65 – Charters – Passed

Democrats are also committed to providing parents with high quality public school options and expanding these options for low income use. We support democratically governed great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools. And we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools, focused on making a profit off of public resources. We believe that high quality public charter schools should provide options for parents but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools. Charter schools must reflect their communities and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English language learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools. We support increased transparency and accountability for all charter schools.

Will we really see a departure from the neoliberal Democrats for Education Reform (DFERs) if Senator Clinton is elected?

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