Education

Does Trump nomination culminate a 180-degree turn on education reform?

Posted August 8

A bipartisan education reform agenda that reaches back 20 years may have shattered in the past two, if the GOP and Democratic platforms are any indication.

Education reformers from both parties are concerned, as Democrats lean against standardized testing to align with the teacher union pressure, who refer to such tests as "test and punish." Meanwhile, Republican leaders criticize any form of centralization, both federal oversight and the state-coordinated Common Core.

Last week the Deseret News addressed the shift in Democratic politics, as laid out in the new party platform, but the Republican shift is also raising eyebrows.

As the GOP Convention unfolded, Hoover Institution Fellow Chester Finn lamented at the Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog that "it increasingly feels as if that assumption has fallen victim not only to warfare between the parties but also to neglect (if not rejection) by both. As Democrats pander to teachers’ unions and minority grievances and Republicans focus on social issues and culture wars, little energy remains for school reform — much less for working across the aisle."

Education Week notes several points in the GOP platform that push against the traditional reform agenda. First, the platform opposes collection of student data for statistical analysis, a key issue for any progress in assessing policy options. It also supports local control of education, i.e., not Washington, and it opposes excessive testing and "teaching to the test."

The GOP platform also states, "... we encourage the parents and educators who are implementing alternatives to Common Core, and congratulate the States who have successfully repealed it."

As for the candidate, as in so many policy areas, no one really knows how Trump would approach education. His website does not list education in his policy positions. He has spoken out against the Common Core, as did almost all the GOP candidates, and he has called to abolish the Department of Education. But how seriously he really means any of that is unclear.

“If Trump doesn’t win, he’s going to have little or no footprint on policy because his campaign is not really about policy,” Frank Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Huffington Post. “If the guy wins the election, he will (have an effect on policy). What effect he’ll have, none of us actually know. People who claim to know, don’t.”

Email: eschulzke@deseretnews.com

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