Romney education claims: are exaggerations, inaccuracies a pattern?

Much as Mitt Romney’s claims about the number of jobs he created and outsourced while president and CEO of Bain Capital continue to generate skepticism, his central assertions about his education record while governor of Massachusetts raise the question about whether his at-times selective and less-than accurate credit-taking reflect a pattern.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning rated as “Half True” this statement from Romney made this month: “When I was governor, not only did test scores improve – we also narrowed the achievement gap.”

According to the fact-checking service, “State education figures over two years support Romney’s claim about learning gains, although it’s worth noting that some areas declined on his watch, such as the drop-out rate. And it’s always somewhat dubious to take a snapshot of statistics from only one or two years . . .”

It goes on, “What’s more, Romney, a single-term governor, should not get all the credit for improvement in the achievement gap, which is influenced by myriad factors. His statement is partially accurate but omits a lot of important information and overstates his impact.”

Massachusetts education leaders called on by PolitiFact were less generous in their assessment of Romney’s contribution to closing the state’s achievement gap.

“The most important point to make with Gov. Romney’s record is that the reform he initiated was part of a much larger and longer movement that existed in Massachusetts,” said Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center, an independent, nonpartisan education research organization.

Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, offered this pointed appraisal:

He had nothing to do with it. It’s the teachers in the classrooms who are making the difference.

What, then, are some verifiable education-related actions taken by Romney as governor?

Among them:

  • Romney proposed eliminating early literacy programs, full-day kindergarten, and class size reduction programs. [Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, March 5, 2003]
  • Romney vetoed a universal pre-kindergarten bill and “questioned the benefits of early education.” [Massachusetts Telegram and Gazette, February 2, 2007]
  • College fees soared 63% under Romney because of his cuts to higher education budget as governor. [Boston Globe, June 29, 2007]

To be sure, Romney’s education record is not all thorns and thistles. A closer look, however, reveals some worrisome facts that he won’t likely highlight in a campaign ad or speech.


Santorum spread thin in Ohio

We have previuosly covered some of the (evolving) positions on education of the Republican Presidential candidates, but with the Super Tuesday primary tomorrow in Ohio, we thought we'd take a look at the current state of play. Current polling averages have a very tight race: Mitt Romney at 36.2%, Rick Santorum at 36.1% and Newt Gingrich bringing up the rear with 16.1%.

Of course, even if Rick Santorum does win the popular vote in Ohio tomorrow, things aren't quite so simple.

Rick Santorum still holds a slim lead over Mitt Romney in the latest Ohio polls, but win or lose on Tuesday, the results of the primary are almost certainly going to give way to an ugly fight over delegates that has the potential to last for weeks.

Santorum failed to submit the required paperwork in three of the state’s congressional districts to be eligible to win any delegates and only partial paperwork in six other districts. And it’s in those six where things start to get complicated.

The former Pennsylvania senator’s campaign needed to come up with at least three names in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts for full delegate eligibility, but his failure submit full slates in some places will result in “unbound” delegates, which will be up for grabs after Super Tuesday.

Take the state’s fourth congressional district, for example. There Santorum submitted the name of one delegate, but left two other lines blank. If Santorum were to win the district, the state party would award him one delegate with the other two remaining officially un-allocated.

Rick Santorum faces other problems too. Santorum has some old fashioned ideas about education, and by old fashioned we mean pre-1785. Even Fox news, bastion of far right reporting, began to notice how extreme, and in some cases, hypocritical his positions have become.

Reporting from Bowling Green, Ohio -- Rick Santorum repeatedly fumbled on Sunday morning, with statements from his 2006 Senate campaign contradicting his current views on No Child Left Behind and placing him squarely in agreement with President Obama's call for post-high-school education or training.

On "No Child Left Behind," President Bush's signature education reform law that is now deeply unpopular among GOP voters, Santorum told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he voted for it because he supported increased testing provisions for schools, but did not like the increased spending.

Wallace highlighted a statement on Santorum's 2006 reelection website that noted Santorum's support for the act and called it "the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades." Wallace also noted that Santorum later said he "took one for the team" in voting for the act, and Santorum denied making such a statement.
Santorum backed down over a statement he made recently that called President Obama a "snob" for saying all Americans should attend college. Wallace noted there was no evidence that the president had made such a statement, and rather had called on all Americans to do something after finishing high school, whether college, vocational training or an apprenticeship, a statement similar to what Santorum has said.

Close in the polls, lacking delegates, and attacked by the Republican party media machine, Rich Santorum is spread very thin in Ohio, and elsewhere.

Van Roekel: The NEA Plan for Teacher Accountability

By Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association

This summer, the National Education Association took a historic vote and adopted a new policy statement. It put us on the record, for the first time, as calling for a comprehensive overhaul of both teacher evaluation and accountability systems to improve professional practice and advance student learning.

Why now?

The myopic focus of the current education reform debate promotes lowering professional standards, finding quick and cheap ways to rate teachers based solely on tests, and making it easier to fire “bad” teachers while lowering the bar to enter the profession.

The irony is that teachers themselves have long complained that evaluation systems are broken. They have been some of the most forceful advocates for better evaluations linked to meaningful feedback and support. What’s been missing is sufficient guidance – developed by and for teachers – to help navigate this challenging and complicated environment.

The policy statement is an opportunity for NEA and our members to assert ourselves in a debate that has been raging for years. We know that current systems for teacher evaluation and accountability can be improved, but too often in the past we have simply taken a defensive posture, trying to prevent damaging policies instead of promoting those that will actually raise student achievement.

We have heard all of the bad ideas. Now it’s time for us to take the lead, and draw on our experience to propose policies that will actually work for students. This is our profession and our responsibility.

Our new policy statement lays out rigorous standards and delineates the multiple indicators of teacher practice that must be taken into account in an evaluation and accountability system. It clearly articulates the link between teacher accountability and student success and defines an appropriate evaluation system. And it signals a commitment to a new, more prestigious profession of teaching:

  • It includes student learning and growth indicators as one of three key components of evaluation systems.  
  • It calls for a well-designed system for improving a struggling teacher’s practice, and should that teacher not improve within a specific time, the policy statement provides for a fair and expedient dismissal process. 
  • It calls for support for beginning teachers so that they will not just stay and survive, but thrive in the profession.

In adopting this policy statement, our members said loud and clear that we want to raise standards for the teaching profession, not lower them. And we want to provide leadership on one of the toughest education issues today.

Now the real hard part begins, as we start to translate this policy into action. We have a chance to define the teaching profession for the next generation, and we will not let that opportunity slip through our grasp.

Dennis Van Roekel is president of the National Education Association and a 23-year teaching veteran.

On SB5, full repeal or no deal

In a surprise move that could only have been prompted by terrible internal poll results, Governor Kasich (R), Speaker Batchelder (R) and Senate President Niehaus (R) sent a letter (below) to the We Are Ohio campaign asking for compromise on SB5. The letter, as you can see is rife with condesension and mistruths. Worse than the letter however was the revisionist press conference that followed shortly afterwards.

The We Are Ohio campaign issued a press release almost immediately and held a press conference of their own

Today We Are Ohio once again stood firmly with the 1.3 million Ohioans who signed petitions to repeal SB 5 by telling the extreme politicians who passed it, to repeal it. Following a press conference held by Governor Kasich, Speaker Batchelder and Senate President Niehaus, We Are Ohio issued the following statement:

“We’re glad that Governor Kasich and the other politicians who passed SB 5 are finally admitting this is a flawed bill,” said Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio. “Just like the bill was flawed this approach to a compromise is flawed as well. Our message is clear. These same politicians who passed this law could repeal it and not thwart the will of the people. They should either repeal the entire bill or support our efforts and encourage a no vote on Issue 2.”

We Are Ohio is a citizen-driven, community-based, bipartisan coalition that has come together to repeal SB 5, the unfair attack on employee rights and worker safety. We Are Ohio includes public and private sector workers and employees, police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, pastors, small business owners, Republicans and Democrats, local elected officials and business leaders, students, Moms, Dads, family members, and your neighbors.

Senate Minority leader Cafaro (D) also issued a statement

"Governor Kasich and Republicans in the General Assembly have finally admitted that Senate Bill 5 went too far. If they thought they could destroy collective bargaining in Ohio and get away with it, they have been proven wrong. More than one million Ohioans have already sent a strong message that Senate Bill 5 should be repealed.

"The time to negotiate was during the legislative process, not 197 days after Senate Bill 5 was first introduced in the Ohio Senate. Unfortunately, it has taken too long for the Governor and GOP leaders to acknowledge they overreached."

Our sources indicate that no one from the We Are Ohio campaign intends to aquience to these political games and attend a Friday meeting. The message has been made clear by 1.3 million supporters of repeal. A message the Governor's desperate ploy highlights.

Without repeal there is no deal.

Letter to We Are Ohio

New Guidelines on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability Approved at 2011 RA

The NEA just announced new guidelines on teacher evaluations.

On Monday, the 8,000 delegates to the 2011 National Education Association Representative Assembly voted to adopt the NEA’s policy statement that revamps teacher evaluation and accountability. The development, implementation, and enforcement of high-quality teacher evaluation and accountability are top priorities for NEA and its affiliates.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel believes the new statement signals a commitment to a new, more prestigious profession of teaching and reflects the first broad endorsement by NEA of the need for evaluation and accountability reform.

“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” said Van Roekel. “This policy statement was written by and for teachers while heeding others’ expertise as well. It outlines a system to help teachers improve instruction and meet students’ needs. It offers sweeping changes to build a true profession of teaching that is focused on high expectations.”

The policy statement is based on a recommendation of a workgroup of NEA leaders convened in the spring by Van Roekel and led by Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle. It outlines guidelines for an evaluation and accountability system that focus on enhancing the practice of teachers, instead of identifying teachers for dismissal.

The statement reflects the importance of maintaining high standards, not lowering them and calls for robust evaluations based on multiple indicators. The statement supports state or local affiliates to use standardized tests for evaluating teachers if the standardized tests are of proven high quality and provide meaningful measures of student learning and growth.

Here's the policy document.

NEA Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability

The Exaggerations of TFA

A former TFA'er digs into some wild TFA claims

In response to critics that TFA teachers don’t have enough long-term impact, TFA replies with the statement from their annual survey “Nearly two-thirds of Teach For America alumni work in the field of education, and half of those in education are teachers. Teaching remains the most common profession among our alumni.”

Now a statement like this is pretty strong and probably shuts up those critics, though it also probably leaves them scratching their heads. How could this statement possibly be true?

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