Carmel Martin’s TeachStrong: An Offering for Hillary?
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.