By Danny Lombara
The presidential election has been at the forefront of the news. While people get carried away with presidential “drama,” it’s more important to understand where the candidates stand on various issues. For a BHHS student, the elections may seem to carry little influence on student life. As teenagers, it is hard to imagine how politics and a presidency can impact day to day affairs. However, at a closer look, the President’s education policies may actually impact BHHS students, for better or for worse.
The first policy relevant to the Byram Hills community is the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) that New York public schools adopted in 2010. The CCSSI is an educational initiative that details what K-12 students should know in English, Art and Math at the end of each school year. Freshman student Mark Fakler says, “It may be effective for the education system, but it adds a lot of stress for students.” Many high school students are already overworked, and the CCSSI only increases the workload. Surprisingly, the candidates I examined are all in agreement in their opposition to the CCSSI. Does this mean the end of Common Core for Byram? Even though the candidates are against it, the likely answer is no. When states adopt a federal act like CCSSI, they do so because it helps them receive extra funding from the government, which makes it unlikely that New York will decide to drop it.
Students and parents should wonder how the candidates feel about standardized testing. Hillary Clinton supports the Every Student Succeeds Act, which modified, but still kept the standardized testing procedures that came along with the No Child Left Behind Act. Jill Stein, of the Green Party believes that standardized testing “is used as a political tool against teachers-targeting low-income and people of color.” Donald Trump believes that schools should get to choose whether they incorporate standardized testing, and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party believes that the decision should be made on the state or local government level. I asked English teacher Mrs. Aber whether or not she thinks the government should force schools to incorporate standardized testing. She responded, “There is a place for standardized testing because the schools that fall behind need to have accountability.” She believes that without government organized standardized testing procedures, schools that aren’t doing well aren’t being noticed and repaired. However, Mrs. Aber also added that too much standardized testing removes creativity from the classroom. I agree with Mrs. Aber, but I also believe that standardized testing causes unhealthy levels of stress for students, so the amount should be largely diminished.
Moreover, our school administration should consider the candidates’ policies on tenure for public school teachers. Hillary Clinton believes that teachers should, and Jill Stein believes that they should also, but on the basis of co-worker evaluations. Personally, I believe Jill Stein’s method could be deeply flawed, as the teacher’s evaluating each other could have biased evaluations. Both Donald Trump and Gary Johnson believe that K-12 teachers should not get tenure, with Trump stating that the tenure system “rewards bad teachers and punishes the good ones.” He also believes in merit pay for teachers, which is a system that bases teachers’ salaries on their teaching performance. I questioned Social Studies teacher Mrs. Laden about her opinion on merit pay. She responded, “as a concept, it seems like a good one…but I haven’t seen a clear description on how they would fairly assess teaching performance.” Test scores may not be an accurate representation of a good teacher, but what else can be used?
It’s important to remember that the president doesn’t have complete control, so whoever wins the election may not be able to fully implement their policies. For instance, if Hillary wins, but the Congress majority is Republican, she won’t be able to get all her laws through congress. How much power would she really have? I asked Mrs. Laden what would happen if this were the case, and she responded, “when there’s been success in the past, there’s been a compromise.” In other words, the President may not be able to get everything they want through the opposite party, but if they make an agreement with opposition, they may get something passed. “The problem is,” Mrs. Laden adds, “the way the political environment is now, everybody’s so entrenched in their own ideas.” If nobody is willing to compromise, then we might see a stalemate in Congress for the next four years. And this won’t benefit anyone…
The main divide between our candidates is ingrained in beliefs about where education should be controlled: on a national level or a state/local level. This struggle between state and federal powers has been prevalent throughout US history. At the end of the day, people need to ask themselves: should Washington control our education, or should our own states? The new President America picks may have an important impact on our daily lives, so people must ignore the noise in this election and focus on real issues, such as education policies, that concern themselves.