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Carmel Martin’s TeachStrong: An Offering for Hillary?

November 10, 2015

On November 10, 2015, the Center for American Progress (CAP) issued this press release promoting what it calls a “campaign… to modernize and elevate teaching,” TeachStrong.

Allow me to offer some observations on this TeachStrong press release, particularly as concerns CAP VP Carmel Martin’s background and words.

Martin was once with the Obama administration.  She left in 2013 to join CAP. Here is how reported Andrew Ujifusa of Ed Week described Martin and her USDOE role upon her USDOE exit:

Carmel Martin, who has been one of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s right-hand people, will be leaving the U.S. Department of Education to oversee policy development at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank closely aligned with the Obama administration.

This is a potentially ground-shifting development at the Education Department. As assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, Martin has overseen the creation of the department’s blueprint for revising the No Child Left Behind Act, and the waivers from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Martin is into test-score-driven reform.  And she is all in for Common Core and its ability “to close our nation’s gaping achievement gaps or prepare future generations to compete with China.”

In leading this TeachStrong effort, it seems that Martin is hoping to provide an education platform to a 2016 presidential hopeful– a Democratic presidential hopeful– say, uhh, the one that both teachers unions already endorsed– Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, in the opener of the Teach Strong press release, the unions are listed first:

The TeachStrong campaign brings together teachers unions, teacher voice organizations, and education reform, civil rights, and education policy leaders to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy issue of 2016.

Washington, D.C. — Forty influential education policy organizations—including teachers unions, teacher voice organizations, and education reform, civil rights, and education policy leaders—today joined together to launch the TeachStrong campaign, an effort to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy issue of 2016 and beyond.

Message: If the teachers unions are on board, that must mean teachers themselves  are also on board– good for marketing.

Already we’re starting with top-down. Marketing from the top down. The corporate approach.

As the press release continues, Martin declares that Common Core and test-driven reform in general (the likes of which was introduced in the GW Bush administration and continued with the Obama administration) as a successful foundation laid:

“Though many initiatives to support teachers have been launched, it is time to make a comprehensive effort to modernize the teaching profession a national priority. Through higher standards and stronger accountability systems, policymakers have worked to lay a foundation for a better education system. But in order to ensure that our students can meet the increasing demands of a 21st-century global economy, it is imperative that policy leaders focus education policy on developing better systems for recruiting, supporting, and compensating teachers,” said Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress. [Emphasis added.]

So, since Common Core has met its goal “to ensure all students are ready for success after high school,” for some reason America needs to move on to the next level of “ensuring”– that means turning attention to the teachers. Otherwise, the Foundation that Common Core Hath Laid might not be as Ensured as Martin just stated it was.

Moreover, Martin’s ability to promote the “imperative” of teacher quality issues in partnership with the likes of Teach for America (TFA) is a hallmark of corporate reform– the ability to speak words that directly contradict the actions of one’s associates.

Moving on to Martin’s next words:

“Our education system is still organized to meet the demands of a 19th-century economy, while teachers are expected to meet modern challenges. Campaigns to recruit good teachers have been waged before—but recruiting talented people into the same weak system will never result in significant gains for students. This campaign is aimed at changing the systems in which teachers operate and is the next logical step‎ in education reform.”

Martin continues with her complaint about an outdated education system. However, she just noted that “higher standards and stronger accountability systems” have laid a foundation for a better education system. So, is the education system not better?

Martin states that the TeachStrong campaign is “aimed at changing the systems in which teachers operate.” But the system has changed. Beginning in 2001, No Child Left Behind made American public education a punitive, test-score-centered system. Then came Race to the Top (RTTT) and Common Core and its tests, almost simultaneously.

If TeachStrong offers nothing more than test-centric reform, it is in a loop– which seems to be the case right out of the starting gate based upon Martin’s contradictory statements about the foundation laid via “higher standards and stronger accountability systems” yet the need to “change the systems in which teachers operate.”

Martin and her TeachStrong are too tied to test score results to offer any option except that which is constructed on standardized testing outcomes.

And here they are, poised and ready to hand it over to Hillary as The Next Logical Step in Education Reform.




Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education (April 2014, Information Age Publishing).

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? (June 2015, TC Press).

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.                                   

  1. Some gaps are more gaping than others.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The next question is who is funding this campaign? The logos suggest that a lot of groups who should know better have signed on to some sort of document, which should be available. Notice also the premise of teach strong…. You pitiful teachers and teacher educators are WEAK, not up the job that needs to be done. The spin is calculated.

  3. jcgrim permalink

    More bait & switch by the Democrats. Note the language doesn’t include high quality teacher preparation. Recruiting is the goal a la TFA & re-branded TFA clones. With NCTQ on board be prepared for Arne’s successor, John King to go after Public Colleges of Education. For-profit Relay Grad School of Ed is Arne’s baby. If the Dems are serious about stopping predatory universities all they need to do is stop giving ANY federal money to the for-profit universities. They didn’t & they won’t.

    Obama has already laid some of the groundwork to privatize higher ed. Look deeply into the weeds of DoEd’s plan for higher ed. The claim is to rein in for-profit colleges but they are applying the same ratings & wage metrics to public universities. If they were serious about elevating the teaching profession they would give more students PELL grants for undergrad & masters degrees & stabilize the K-12 profession.

    Seriously, University grads are making the lowest pay? Teaching, social work, nursing, liberal arts grads- all predominantly female professions. This war on education is parallel to the war on women.

  4. jcgrim permalink

    I meant to say but accidentally deleted: Seriously, if they rate universities by graduates salaries & employment, which university grads make the lowest pay?

  5. ira shor permalink

    Great work revealing the agenda behind this latest gambit Teach Strong. Yes, it’s all about misleading rhetoric to make it seem as if CCSS and the testing are on the right track–thank you Pres. Obama and Bill Gates!!–and the teacher unions are on board to finish the job! A stalking horse to concoct an bogus education platform for Hillary to run on which will fool none of us. Hillary has no education plan. If she did, it would have been announced prior to the forced endorsement of Randi and Lily as part of authentic union leaders’ demand that their candidate earn their endorsement.

  6. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Not surprising, but alarming. Thank you for the update with the detailed background.

  7. Andrea Lancer permalink

    Ah, the magic words “higher standards and accountability”. Who can argue against this? Just as no one could argue about no child being left behind. We have to stop letting the hucksters set the agenda with Orwellian use of language.

  8. The leadership of the two national teachers unions are playing a leading role in promoting TeachStrong’s collaboration with corporate education reform.

    This follows Randi Weingarten history of promoting corporate interests. “Turning ‘Collaboration Into a Bad Word”

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