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Bernie Sanders on Education

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When Bernie Sanders responded to the candidate questionnaire of the American Federation of Teachers, he explained his views on a wide range of issues.

To those on this blog who are adamantly opposed to the Senate's "Every Child Achieves Act," please note that Bernie voted for it and sees it as an improvement over the current high-stakes testing environment.

His views are similar to those of the Network for Public Education. We support the ECAA with qualifications because we oppose annual testing and federal support for charter schools.

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The American Federation of Teachers invited all candidates to respond to their questionnaire. Three responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders.

Candidate questionnaire: Bernie Sanders

Today, almost 50 million students attend our nation's public schools. Along with their parents, communities, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees, these students have been forced to live under test--and-punish policies that include sanctions and school closings, high-stakes assessments, and federalized teacher evaluations that are counterproductive and have taken the joy out of teaching and learning.

Q. What is your view of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also
known as the No Child Left Behind Act)? What changes, if any, would you make to the law, and
why? Please include positions on:
" The federal government's role in ensuring equity and access to resources for all children;
" The role of standards, assessments and accountability in public education;
" Ensuring that all students have access to a broad curriculum that includes art and music,
as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
" Professional development for school staff; and
" Community schools.

BS: I voted against No Child Left Behind in 2001, and continue to oppose the bill's reliance on high-stakes standardized testing to direct draconian interventions. In my view, No Child Left Behind ignores several important factors in a student's academic performance, specifically the impact of poverty, access to adequate health care, mental health, nutrition, and a wide variety of supports that children in poverty should have access to. By placing so much emphasis on standardized testing, No Child Left Behind ignores many of the skills and qualities that are vitally important in our 21st century economy, like problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork, in favor of test preparation that provides no benefit to students after they leave school.

In my home state of Vermont, almost every school is identified as "failing" under the requirements of No Child Left Behind, despite the fact that we have one of the highest graduation rates in the country, and students from Vermont continually score among the highest in the country on annual NAEP assessments.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, I have worked to reform No Child Left Behind. My top priorities during the most recent iteration of the bill have been:
" Reducing the high-stakes nature of standardized tests by basing accountability on multiple measures of a school's effectiveness.
" Including a pilot program that allows states to implement innovative systems of assessment that do not rely on standardized tests. Instead, new innovative assessments will empower educators by providing actionable information during the school year that can inform instructional practice.
" Maintaining federal support for afterschool programs provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program.
" The inclusion of wrap-around support services like health, mental health, nutrition and family supports.

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I believe guaranteeing resource equity is a core tenet of the federal government's role in education policy, and if elected, I will work reduce the resource disparities that currently exist between schools in wealthy and low-income areas.

In addition, I strongly support increased emphasis on a well-rounded curriculum. No Child Left Behind's narrow focus on math and literacy has deprived children, especially low-income children, from critical opportunities in the arts, music, physical education, civics and STEM fields.

I also believe that not enough emphasis has been placed on effective professional development for educators and school leaders. Districts and schools must provide more time and support for educators to pursue highly effective professional development. We should be encouraging innovation in professional development, and ensuring that teachers will be able to incorporate professional development into their classroom practice. Finally, we must provide the resources necessary to provide effective professional development for all teachers, and have consistently supported efforts to increase Title II funding.

Q. Do you support any of the current reauthorization proposals under consideration in the 114th

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Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Educationmore...)

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