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Betsy DeVos’ Resignation Letter

Below is the full text of now-former US ed sec Betsy DeVos’ resignation letter.

The Secretary of Education

Washington, DC  20202

January 7, 2021

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President:

For more than thirty years, I have fought on behalf of America’s students to expand the options they have to pursue a world-class education. As you know, too many of them are denied an equal opportunity to a high-quality education simply because of where they grow up or how much money their family makes. You rightly have called this one of the most significant civil rights issues of all time.

Leading the US Department of Education had given me an exceptional opportunity to advocate on behalf of the forgotten students the traditional system leaves behind. We have achieved much.

We have sparked a national conversation about putting students and parents in charge of education, leading to expanded school choice and education freedom in many states. We have restored the proper federal role by returning power to the states, communities, educators, and parents. We have returned due process to our nation’s schools and defended the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. We have dramatically improved the way students interact with Federal Student Aid. We have lifted up students by restoring year-round Pell, expanding Second Chance Pell, delivering unprecedented opportunities for students at HBCUs, and so much more.

Finally, Mr. President, I know with certainty that history will show we were correct in our repeated urging of and support for schools reopening this year and getting all of America’s students back to learning. This remains the greatest challenge our nation’s students face, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Millions are being denied meaningful access to education right now, in no small part because of the union bosses who control so much of the traditional system.

We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business. That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.

Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope they would emulate. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday. To that end, today I resign from my position, effective Friday, January 8, in support of the oath I took to our Constitution, our people, and our freedoms.

Holding this position has been the honor of a lifetime, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve America and her students.

Sincerely,

/s/

Betsy DeVos

Given the timing of DeVos’ resignation, I initially thought that she was trying to dodge any 25th Amendment actions that might be raised by Vice President Pence. However, according to Politico, it was just the opposite: DeVos apparently resigned once she knew Pence would not pursue that option:

DeVos decided to step down from the Cabinet after learning that Vice President Mike Pence opposed calls to invoke the 25th Amendment to oust Trump from office before Jan. 20, the adviser said.

“Once that option was off the table, resignation was the only option,” the DeVos adviser said, saying that “this week was a clear line in the sand” for her.

She had reached her limit.

Betsy DeVos

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BETSY DEVOS RESIGNS

US education secretary Betsy DeVos resigned Thursday evening, January 07, 2021. According to CNBC, DeVos’ resignation is directly related to “Donald Trump for rhetoric that fueled the invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump suppporters.”

On January 06, 2021, DeVos also tweeted the following statement:

Earlier the same day, transportation secretary Elaine Chou also resigned. Chou is the wife of Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

The two Cabinet resignations come as the idea of Vice President Mike Pence invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump is in the news— a removal that would require majority approval of Trump’s Cabinet (more on that here). As of this writing, Pence has expressed no intention to pursue this course of action.

Betsy DeVos

___________________________________________________________________

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States: Ask Biden Administration to Waive Spring 2021 Testing

This is a school year fraught with quarantine disruption, turnstile attendance, distancing and sanitizing burdens, and spotty internet capabilities.

The very idea that most schools and districts could somehow pull off federally-mandated standardized testing in the spring of 2021 and that the testing outcome would evidence anything other than the schisms of this cubist painting of a year is nothing more than bureaucratic lunacy.

What would be the point, other than to give tests for testing’s sake?

Oh, but we need to know who is *falling behind.*

In this footrace in which all participants’ shoelaces have been tied together to some degree, assume everyone is falling behind. We don’t need tests to tell us as much.

Call it pandemic-induced common sense.

Spring 2021 testing is an unwelcome burden. As such, I expect states to seek waivers from those federally-mandated tests from the incoming Biden administration. Indeed, on New Years Eve, Montana’s request for a 2021 testing waiver was in the news — including a Plan B should the federal waiver be denied:

HELENA – A request to waive Montana’s federally mandated state standardized tests will be submitted by Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

The tests include general assessments and alternate assessments for math and English/language arts, including the ACT according to a release from the Office of Public Instruction (OPI). …

“Families and educators are focused on assessing student learning at the local level while ensuring our communities are safe. The last thing that they need to worry about is a high-stakes standardized test,” Superintendent Arntzen said. “It is important to ensure any test provides meaningful data for learning, but due to COVID-19, the likelihood of receiving reliable and useful data from these assessments is low.”

If a waiver is not granted, the OPI says  Superintendent Arntzen has implemented a considerably shortened assessment which will reduce testing time to support schools and preserve instructional time. 

Though a number of organizations are calling for the Biden administration to nix the federal tests in spring 2021, Montana is the first state to publicize its decision to seek a testing waiver from the new administration.

Given the state of pandemic education across the nation, Montana is likely the first of many.

New administration, new opportunity. States, get your test-waiver paperwork together.

________________________________________________________

No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Trump’s School Choice Executive Order: A Big Nothing

On December 28, 2020, President Donald Trump issued this executive order to purportedly allow federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to be used to finance “emergency learning scholarships” (school vouchers) “to disadvantaged families for use by any child without access to in-person learning” 

This executive order will go nowhere. 

First, there is no time for the Department of Health and Human Services create an application process specific to this school voucher purpose and to process new grant applications for states or entities and for those states or entities to establish processes to identify and distribute funds to qualified individuals and for those individuals to locate private schools or other qualifying services, either before the school year ends (we’re a semester in) or before the Trump presidency ends.

Second, even if states and other entities are allowed to redirect current CSBG funding toward Trump’s eleventh-hour voucher flash-in-the-pan, doing so would mean just that– taking money designated for other purposes– which is bureaucratically easier said than done in justifying the reallocation, actually redirecting the money, and establishing a process for its disbursement for a new purpose– and, again, the clock is running out on both the 2020-21 school year and the Trump presidency.

This school choice executive order appeared on December 28, 2020, the day after Trump signed the latest COVID relief bill, which did not include the school voucher funding exiting US ed sec Betsy DeVos wanted. Also on December 28, 2020, DeVos publicly lamented the absence of voucher funding in the COVID relief bill. According to USA Today, DeVos was in on drafting this go-nowhere executive order:

Officials confirmed DeVos worked on the plan with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, which would provide families with the money through block grants, according to Trump’s order. Details are scarce, including how much money would be available, when families could access it and whether the plan could even launch before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office – at which point, he could presumably undo the executive order.

Interestingly, DeVos has yet to celebrate via US Dept of Ed press release her ghost-written Trump school choice executive order.

Perhaps she knows that like her presence in DC, it will be gone very soon.

Betsy DeVos

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Learning Pods: Quite the Lesson for Adults

As the time approached for the 2020-21 school year to begin, I remember reading about parents of means turning to “learning pods” as an option for creating a sort of one-room schoolhouse experience for a small group of children. Also referred to as “pandemic pods,” the idea is to provide a means for social interaction and face-to-face instruction to supplement the less-desirable online instruction that these children might otherwise be facing during the pandemic.

There are even freshly-created entities such as this one, Learning Pods (a New York- and San Francisco-school “collaboration” that can apparently somehow process contributions from foundations), willing to facilitate a learning pod experience for preschool or K-5 children. Interested in pricing? Use this handy pricing calculator to learn that the estimated cost for a K-5 student who is involved five days a week (where a “day” is 9AM – 2PM for K-5) in a pod of 4 students is $3,320 a month. The cheapest appears to be $893 a month for a preschool pod of 6 kids meeting 3 days a week for under three house a day (9AM – 11:45AM). (Financial aid is available; one can apply for private school financial aid using this application that costs $51 to submit.)

If you have the means and live in SF or NY and have the pod membership all lined up but have no teacher, and Learning Pods has no teacher for your pod, you can fill out this “teacher not found form pod” form, and we’ll see what happens. The form includes the question of who is pod captain, whether the pod is indeed complete (minimum of 3 kids), whether pod has a location, whether pod includes children with “learning differences or additional needs,” and intended curriculum (current school curriculum with Zoom? current school curriculum without Zoom? or… Learning Pods’ own curriculum?).

This learning pod idea gets complicated quickly, and we haven’t even broached the topic of disagreement among pod parents, or the effects of the pod host being in a position of greater power/leverage than other parents, or the fiscal postion of the pod if one or more parents bails, or discipline issues among the children in the pod (which could produce sour relationships among parents), or contracting and retaining a pod teacher, or what if the pod teacher contracts COVID…. I’ll stop now.

Upon my first reading of learning pods as a COVID solution, I also recall hearing an element of concern about whether these learning pods would grow in popularity and replace or otherwise undermine the traditional, K12 school experience.

Not going to happen. Pulling off this pod experience is too complicated. Many parents with means might think the pod idea is simple: form a group among friends, decide on whose home will host the pod class meetings, pool funds to hire a teacher, then voila! the work is done. Just put kids in room with teacher; the magic of learning will happen, and the parents are free to go about their business unincumbered by school experience that will now take care of itself.

I am smiling even as I am writing. It’s the same smile I have when I hear that novice teachers expect their students to all listen, behave, and eagerly await the opportunity to fully engage in the day’s learning and are therefore genuinely shocked when students resist.

It’s also the same smile I had when I read the December 22, 2020, article entitled, “Learning Pods Show Their Cracks.” (Interestingly, the story’s computer window tab reads, “The Cons of Learning Pods,” a step away from the url which reads, “learning pods pros and cons.” I guess the “pros” lost out on this one.)

Here’s how the article begins:

This past summer, Emily Brady thought she had solved the puzzle of remote learning. Rather than send her 5-year-old to virtual kindergarten, she would set up a Spanish immersion forest school for a few children, hire a teacher and run the idyllic program from the cottage behind her house in Oakland, Calif.

“The parents needed to work, and we figured the easiest thing would be to pay and hire somebody to be the teacher,” said Ms. Brady, a writer who set the plan in motion with a cousin who also had school-aged children. “Oh my God, it all just sounds so naïve now.”

It turns out that organizing and operating an independent one-room schoolhouse from your backyard is a lot of work. To get the program running, Ms. Brady drafted Covid-19 guidelines and interviewed potential teachers, settling on a woman with a warm personality, but no teaching experience.

There’s that smile.

Enjoy the rest of the NYT article here. 

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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First Step in Educational Equity: Move Away from Standardized Testing

If the next US ed sec, Miguel Cardona, wants equity in education, he needs to step away from America’s obsession with standardized testing and make better use of the federal education dollars.

To that end, I have the perfect article for him to read, written by my colleague, Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg chair of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York. The excerpts below appear as part of a longer opinion piece in the December 23, 2020, Policy and Politics section of Bloomberg.com:

Education Secretary’s First Task: Curb Standardized Tests

Miguel Cardona will need to address public school inequities by making better use of federal aid.

Andrea Gabor

States and localities are responsible for the lion’s share of spending on public education; yet, as of 2015, only 11 states had funding formulas where high-poverty schools receive more funding per student than low-poverty schools, down from a high of 22 in 2008. When states cut back on their share of aid during the Great Recession, school funding came to rely increasingly on local property tax revenue, benefiting districts with high property values and hurting those where the values are low.

Though it may sound counterintuitive, an important first step the new administration can take to improve educational equity is to abandon the regimen of annual standardized tests that has dominated federal educational policy-making, especially under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Under the best circumstances, standardized tests do little to measure actual achievement, let alone improve it; indeed, the relentless focus on English and math in every grade from third through eighth has shortchanged the teaching of science at the elementary level as well as civics. Given the difficulty of administering tests during a pandemic, any results obtained next spring are likely to be more flawed than ever. 

Eliminating or sharply curtailing standardized tests would save states as much as $1.7 billion and allow districts to reallocate resources. For perspective, that is over 4% of the $39 billion the federal government spends on K-12 education, based on 2018 figures.

Instead, districts could administer diagnostic tests developed by local educators that provide quick feedback for teachers. (The typically long lag time on standardized test results means teachers can’t easily tailor instruction to student needs.) Testing by the National Association of Educational Progress, which is considered the nation’s report card, provides “the ideal gauge” for measuring Covid-19’s impact on students and should not be canceled; NAEP provides state-by-state comparisons and takes demographic criteria like race, income and disability into account.

Cardona should also see to it that the Education Department rewrites the eligibility rules for supplemental federal funds that are meant for the poorest schools. These so-called Title 1 funds constitute the largest share of federal education spending. …

Instead, federal money should be used to reward states that promote funding equity, as well as local desegregation efforts — ideas Biden has endorsed. …

Working with other government agencies, like Health and Human Services, and rewriting Title 1 rules could help tap additional funding for community schools, turning them into hubs that provide counseling, basic medical services and food. A recent study found that providing such “wraparound services” in New York City schools, for example, increased attendance and graduation rates, as well as some test scores.

For more details on how Cardona might better employ federal aid in order to address educational inequity, read Gabor’s piece in full.

Achieving educational equity requires practical solutions. Standardized testing fixation just isn’t one of them.

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No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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CT Ed Commissioner Miguel Cardona to be Next US Ed Sec

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Connecticut education commissioner, Miguel Cardona, as the next US secretary of education.

Cardona was appointed state superintendent in Connecticut in August 2019. According to Cardona’s Linkedin bio, he earned his bachelors in education from Central Connecticut State University (1993-1997) and several degrees/certifications from the University of Connecticut: masters degree in bilingual and bicultural education (1999-2001); education leadership certification (2001-2003); Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership and administration (2007-2012), and executive leadership certification (superintendency and educational system administration (2012).

Cardona was an elementary school teacher in Meriden, CT, for about five years, but for some reason, he has not included this info on his Linkedin bio. He does list his five years as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut (2015-2019) and his many administrative positions, including ten years as principal (2003-2013), two years as an evaluator (2013-2015), and four years as an assistant superintendent (2015-2019), all with Meriden Public Schools.

Cardona is clearly not fly-by-night when it comes to professional time in public education; however, his time in the K12 classroom is limited, and it was long ago (presumably between 1997 and 2003). It’s not Teach for America “token teaching,” but it is not a K12 classroom career. It’s more like an administrative springboard. That noted, Cardona’s administrative rise is gradual, across decades, and his degrees and certifications are from traditional institutions and build upon one another. He has spent his professional career in Connecticut, where he is from, with much of his time in the public school system from which he graduated, Meriden Public Schools. Cardona’s parents emigrated from Puerto Rico as children, and Cardona, Connecticut’s first Latino state ed commissioner, was born in public housing. 

Chalkbeat has an excellent article on Cardona’s education positions, which are middle-of-road enough to please both pro-charter and anti-charter/pro-union camps. He is described as “more of an educator than a politician or ideologue”; he does not like tying teacher evaluations to standardized tests, though he considers standardized testing as “important guideposts to our promise of equity.” Also, during his state ed confirmation hearing, Cardona called charter school choice “a viable option,” even as he clarified that neighborhood schools would be his “core work.”

Biden’s selection of Cardona as US ed sec is in keeping with his efforts to unify and to avoid extremes even as he chooses someone with teaching experience. Too, Cardona’s appointment further fulfils Biden’s promise to appoint persons of color to his Cabinet. 

The December 22, 2020, Biden-Harris Transition press release on Cardona’s selection includes this statement from Biden:

In Miguel Cardona, America will have an experienced and dedicated public school teacher leading the way at the Department of Education — ensuring that every student is equipped to thrive in the economy of the future, that every educator has the resources they need to do their jobs with dignity and success, and that every school is on track to reopen safely. He will help us address systemic inequities, tackle the mental health crisis in our education system, give educators a well-deserved raise, ease the burden of education debt, and secure high-quality, universal pre-K for every three- and four year-old in the country. As a lifelong champion of public education, he understands that our children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft — and that everything that will be possible for our country tomorrow will be thanks to the investments we make and the care that our educators and our schools deliver today.

As for other practical, K12 ed policy/procedure changes that I could see happening in the Biden administration, I expect moderate shifts but shifts nonetheless. These might include

  • not completely removing annual testing but reducing the number of grade levels that must test and tamping down the usage of such tests to grade schools and teachers;
  • not removing federal funding for charter schools but incorporating the funding as part of Title I and instituting/strengthening accountability for money spent on charters and related education companies.

At any rate, I am hopeful that Cardona is a far cry from Duncan and DeVos.

Miguel Cardona

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“Dr.” Jill Biden Is Fine with Me.

On January 20, 2021, Jill Biden will become the first First Lady to also hold a doctoral degree in education. In Jill Biden’s case, hers is a Doctor of Education in Education Leadership from the University of Delaware.

Biden is headed for the White House, and given her newly-heightened profile, I am not surprised that someone rose to the ugly occasion of trying to cheapen her educational achievement, not because Biden herself was using her title to market herself or some ed-reform product, nor because she was using the title to leverage some other personal gain, but just because an opportunity to show oneself to be a horse’s posterior presented itself. 

Jill Biden is widely known as an educator; therefore, her use of the title, “Dr.,” is reasonably associated with that well-known context, even on Twitter. There is no “MD” confusion, and therefore, no problem.

As for her dissertation, I read it. Given the criticism levied against Biden for her Ed.D., I wanted to gauge the effort she had to expend in writing her dissertation and whether her work might be considered a useful contribution to her field (i.e., whether someone might use the findings to inform either practice or future research). After examining her work, I see her effort on its pages, and I believe what she has to offer does indeed contribute to the knowledge base of student experience at the community college level.

It is true that Biden’s dissertation is not centered upon hypothesis testing. However, I do not assume that it must be. Her work is more practical. Not all research is centered on the scientific method. As I was working on my dissertation gauging the utility of two types of coefficients for understanding exactly which outcome variables were responsible for driving the significance of a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) (sounds fancy, doesn’t it?), a friend was working on his Doctor of Arts (D.A.) in cello performance. I used to tease him that his dissertation was not real because it lacked statistics.

I hold a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods. In reading Jill Biden’s dissertation, I did not assume that her work could not add to the knowledge base in her area if it did not resemble my dissertation (quite the festival of numbers), and that is as it should be.

In my time working on my doctorate, I was well aware of several biases: Ed.D. programs were not as “good” as Ph.D. programs; qualitative research was not as good as quantitative, and even that applied statistics (putting stats to practical usage) was not as good as the more theoretical statistics (in which formulas remain untainted by attempts at real-world application). So many ways to try to build up ourselves and diminish others.

That was twenty years ago, and I am happy to say that none of those efforts to rank the value of a doctorate matter to me.

What matters most is that when I say my Ph.D. is in statistics, it scares people. (Smile.)

Dr. Jill Biden is fine with me.

Dr. Jill Biden

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Liability, Thy Name Is Google Meet

In order to educate students in quarantine, our school district is now using the video conferencing tool, Google Meet, which is part of the Google Classroom portfolio of online education products.

Google Meet has been billed as “a game changer.”

Indeed.

The idea of viewing the interior of my students’ homes while teaching them using Google Meet immediately brings to mind one word:

Liability.

In requiring teachers to use video conferencing for quarantined students, my school district has extended the classroom of all of its teachers into students’ homes. We can see into those homes as we conference. It makes me uncomfortable because I do not want to witness something I might be held legally responsible to report even as I feel I am invading student privacy via my official, school presence viewing that private space.

What if I see drugs or drug paraphenalia laying on a table?

What if I witness what appears to be the planning or execution of some other illegal activity?

What if I view or hear evidence of abuse or neglect?

What is my professional liability for what I witness outside of my physical classroom space but inside of this newly-created, virtual, in-home, classroom extension?

I have no idea, and, to my knowledge, neither does my district.

Meanwhile, my district has put me in this position without any guidance (or, it seems, any thought) regarding what I note above.

To deal with my Google Meet guinea-pigging, I find myself purposely trying not to focus on what my students are inadvertently showing me in the backgrounds of their video conferencing. If need be, I am able to choose a neutral background on my computer; however, I have no such cability to default my students’ computers to a neutral, default background for out Meet.

Students can turn off their cameras, but this presents another issue: With student cameras off, I cannot tell whether the student is attending to the lesson unless the student is speaking.

The above represents only one issue concerning privacy and cameras. Another is that since the district owns the computers, it could install spyware capable of activating laptop cameras. A 2019 Pennsylvania lawsuit concerns a district installing webcam-activating spyware on school-issued laptops, and the district activating that spyware on laptops in students’ homes. Parents were not aware that the district could use school-issued laptops to spy on students in their homes.

Liability issues galore, and my district has set its “game changer” cart before its soundly-legally-advised horse.

Okay, then.

________________________________________________________________

No time like the present to sharpen your digital research skills!  See my latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, available for purchase on Amazon and via Garn Press!

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Lily Eskelsen Garcia Pursues US Ed Sec Post

As the December 04, 2020, Politico reports, former National Education Association (NEA) president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, is seriously pursuing President-elect Biden’s nod for next US secretary of education.

Eskelsen Garcia earned her BS in elementary education in 1980 and her MEd in instructional technology in 1985, both from the University of Utah. She taught at Orchard Elementary School (Utah) from 1980-1990, and was selected as the Utah Teacher of the Year in 1989. The next year, in 1990, Eskelsen Garcia ran as a write-in candidate for Utah Education Association (UEA) president and won. She exited the classroom at that time and was UEA president for nine years, until 1999. In 1998, Eskelsen Garcia ran for the Utah House of Representatives and gave a close showing of it, earning 45% of the vote as a Democrat and losing to Republican incumbent, Merrill Cook.

During her time as UEA president, in 1996, Eskelsen Garcia also served at the national level on the National Education Association’s (NEA) executive committee. Her career as NEA leadership contiued with a steady rise, from secretary treasurer (2002-2008), to vice president (2008-2014), to president (2014-2020). Eskelsen Garcia’s time as NEA president officially ended when newly-elected Becky Pringle took office on Septemner 01, 2020. After serving two three-year terms, Eskelsen Garcia did not run in 2020.

As she pursues Biden’s approval for US ed sec nomination, Eskelsen Garcia has several qualities in her favor. First of all, she was a classroom teacher. In July 2020, Biden said he would “make sure the secretary of education… is a teacher.” Eskelsen Garcia spent a decade in the classroom and is a bonafide classroom teacher, and not one who appeared merely for a year or two (or less) with the ulterior motive of padding a politcal or administrative career with token teaching. 

Secondly, as the first Latina US ed sec, Eskelsen Garcia would help Biden keep his promise to appoint “the single-most diverse Cabinet based on race, colour, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America.”

Thirdly, as Politico points out, Eskelsen Garcia has successfully courted a notable Republican endorsement in retiring US senator, Lamar Alexander, who chaired the US Senate Education Committee during the drafting of what would become the long-overdue Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) revision, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enrolled on December 05, 2015. In July 2016, NEA awarded Alexander its “Friend of Education” award; in response, EdWeek called Alexander, “The NEA’s best frenemy”:

The NEA just awarded its “Friend of Education” award to Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for their role in shepherding the Every Student Succeeds Act through Congress. The law replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and devolves much of the authority over schools back to states.

Both honorees showed up in person to collect their award and address the 6,900-member delegation.

Murray has won the award once before, in 2013. But Alexander is the first Republican winner in more than 30 years. …

As Washington-watchers know, Alexander has a particular beef with former Secretary Arne Duncan, who issued waivers from the NCLB law that required states to set up new teacher-evaluation regimes and adopt new academic standards. 

The NEA was equally unhappy with many of those decisions, saying they were deprofessionalizing teaching and threatening teachers’ livelihood. The union famously called for Duncan’s resignation in 2014.

So, while Alexander’s opposition is grounded in a local-control argument and the union’s in its dislike of the tough accountability policies, the two have developed a good working relationship, resulting in several legislative wins, including ESSA.

As for those “new academic standards” referenced above, well, for me, this is where Eskelsen Garcia as US ed sec gets a bit sticky.

In July 2013, the Gates Foundation gave NEA $3.9M “to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts.” NEA took the Gates money, and Eskelsen Garcia bought into the Gates-fundedhighly-controversial Common Core.

In fact, both national teachers unions took Gates money and promoted the Common Core. In June 2012, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), led by Randi Weingarten, received $4.4M in Gates funding “to support the AFT Innovation Fund and work on teacher development and Common Core State Standards”– to follow the $1M it received “to assist teachers in understanding and implementing the Common Core State Standards” in April 2011.

In April 2015, I wrote about Eskelsen Garcia’s and Weingarten’s “Common Core Fidelity.”

Here is the rub– and my major concern about Eskelsen Garcia as US ed sec:

Yes, Eskelsen Garcia spent a decade in the classroom as a teacher. However, she exited that classroom thirty years ago, in 1990, and has been in state and national union leadership ever since. 

Is Eskelsen Garcia now more “career politician” than she is classroom teacher? 

I began teaching in 1991. Eskelsen Garcia has been out of the classroom literally for as long as I have been in it. So, yes, she was against Arne Duncan and his No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers, but she enthusiastically embraced the Common Core that Duncan promoted– and enticed states to embrace via his Race to the Top (RTTT) and its assessment consortium competition.

And she took the millions from Gates to market the Common Core product to teachers.

As US secretary of education, what latest-and-greatest competition might Eskelsen Garcia market to states?

I hope none.  

If Eskelsen Garcia becomes US ed sec, I hope she will work to decrease the overwhelming, wasteful, taxing burden that annual testing has become to schools and districts nationwide– perhaps via the “grade span testing” that she advocated during the ESEA reauthorization. From the NEA Today, January 2015:

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García welcomed the news on Monday that the Obama administration is calling for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) but said annual testing will continue to undermine any effort to provide every child with the resources they need to succeed academically. …

The Obama administration, however, has doubled down on annual testing, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made clear in his speech on Monday laying out his vision for ESEA reauthorization. …

Duncan proposed states set limits on the amount of time devoted to tests and preparation, but reiterated his support for annual testing

Garcia responded that a focus on educational opportunity, however, requires a greater reduction in standardized tests than what Duncan is proposing.

Overtesting has “corrupted the quality of the education received by children, especially those in high poverty areas,” García said.

NEA supports a return to grade span testing – one federally-required standardized test in grades 3–5, one in grades 6–9 and one in grades 10–12. This schedule would free up critical time for teaching and allows for a more dynamic, diverse, and challenging curriculum.

Grade span testing also frees up millions of education dollars to be redirected to starved education infrastructure– which is in keeping with Biden’s education plan

However, during the pandemic, even grade span testing would be unrealistic for many districts and schools. In fact, as Chalkbeat notes, whether or not to waive ESSA-required testing for 2020-21 might indeed be the first “test” of Betsy DeVos’ successor.

That successor could well be Eskelsen Garcia. We’ll find out soon enough.

If so, may she turn out to be more teacher than politician.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia

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