Joe Biden’s Plan for Education: Democrats Must Do Better

What  a disappointment Joe Biden’s education plan is.

Democrats must do better.

” Joe’s Plan for Educators, Students, and our Future” does not mention at all the important issues before us in American education. No mention of the funding of privately managed, taxpayer funded, and publicly unaccountable charter schools. No mention of the NAACP call for a moratorium on adding new charter schools because of their racial inequities and their lack of accountability. No mention of standardized testing and the damage that testing does to student learning and the inaccuracy of standardized testing as the dominant way to assess student achievement and potential. No mention of the Common Core and how those standards have done nothing to improve student achievement and how they have removed meaningful and necessary learning from the curriculum of the nation’s schools. Unfortunately, Joe Biden’s plan is poorly written, full of platitudes, and lacks substance.

Democrats must do better.

Joe Biden’s plan calls for actions that would be incredibly damaging to children in K-12 schools in this country.

Joe Biden’s Call to Action #1:

Joe Biden’s plan called for: “more innovative approaches to recruiting teachers of color, including supporting high school students in accessing dual enrollment classes that give them an edge in teacher preparation programs and helping paraprofessionals work toward their teaching certificate”. Of course, we must work to increase the numbers of teachers of color in our schools, but we must do it in ways that honor their intelligence and capabilities and produce excellent teachers. Biden’s proposal neither honors the intelligence and capabilities of people of color nor will produce excellent teachers.

It’s silly to suggest that high school students be taking courses to give them “an edge in teacher preparation programs”.  High school students will best develop their minds and become knowledgeable teachers in the future by engaging in a rigorous high school curriculum not by participating in teacher preparation courses at ages 14-18.

Also, prospective teachers of color deserve the same quality of teacher preparation as other prospective teachers. The “innovative approach to recruiting teachers” mentioned in the plan refers to the bankrupt approach of the Relay Graduate School of Education, which is not a school and does not provide a graduate education. It is a mill to quickly produce “teachers” for the charter school industry. It has been dubbed “the McDonald’s approach” because the program, like the food, is fast and of poor quality. Daniel Katz, Director of Secondary Education and Secondary Special Education Teacher Preparation at Seton Hall University, sums it up like this:

It is a “Graduate School of Education” that has not a single professor or doctoral level instructor or researcher affiliated with it. In essence, it is a partnership of charter school chains Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First… Relay’s “curriculum” mostly consists of taking the non-certified faculty of the charter schools, giving them computer-delivered modules on classroom management (and distributing copies of Teach Like a Champion), and placing them under the auspices of the “no excuses” brand of charter school operation and teachers who already have experience with it.

What Joe Biden is suggesting is an approach to teacher education that produces inadequate teachers to be the faculty for our neediest students. That approach does not in any way fulfill the standards put in place for programs that prepare future teachers in  accredited colleges and universities. Activating Joe Biden’s proposal would produce a markedly inferior teaching force. In fact, in Connecticut, only 38% of the first cohort of The Relay Graduate School of Education even passed the necessary licensure tests.

Call to Action #2:

Joe Biden calls for a high school education that provides a vocational curriculum which “will allow students to earn an industry credential upon high school graduation”. One can only imagine what courses that teach students how to write effectively, how to read thoughtfully, how to do math proficiently, how to think scientifically, how to express themselves artistically, or how to understand history expansively students would have to skip in order to graduate from high school as a credentialed electrician.

Biden says in his plan that he “will provide every middle and high school student a path towards a successful career”. Middle school and high school are much more than paths to careers. They are the prime means for adolescents to develop as increasingly independent learners as well as critical and creative thinkers. We must not deny adolescents that development so necessary for them as individuals and so necessary for the nation as a whole.

Democrats must do better.

Democrats must not simply unseat Betsy DeVos. Democrats must not simply return to the discredited agendas of the past: charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. Democrats must provide vision. Democrats must understand what it is to learn and what it is to teach. Democrats must lead us forward as a nation through equity and excellence in K-12 public education.

Please, Joe, revise your plan and write it better. Please, other Democratic candidates, get it right.