NBFT President Liz Lynch Attends Education Roundtable with Hillary Clinton

Post date: Nov 15, 2015 8:32:49 PM

Article written by NBFT President, Elizabeth Lynch

The American Federation of Teachers sent out an email to 300,000 members asking the question, "If you could ask Hillary Clinton a question, what would it be?" Normally I just delete these types of emails. However, this time I had a question, "Recently President Obama has said our children have endured too much testing. What can we do to move away from all of this testing and return the joy of teaching and learning to the classroom? And, how would you ensure that federal money for education is not tied to test results?"

A couple of weeks later I received a phone call from AFT headquarters in Washington, DC telling me that 5,000 people

replied to the Ask Hillary a question contest and that I had won. The AFT asked if I would be willing to ask Hillary Clinton my question in person. Of course, I replied I absolutely would. The AFT flew me up to New Hampshire on Sunday, November 8th where I met the two other contest winners. On Monday, the three of us, along with AFT members from Connecticut and New Hampshire, met with the American Federation of Teachers' President Randi Weingarten. President Weingarten explained that we would have a roundtable discussion with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She also helped us feel more relaxed and comfortable by asking us questions about ourselves. Finally, the moment arrived to meet Secretary Hillary Clinton. After being cleared by Secret Service we went into a room with about 20 chairs in a circle. Secretary Clinton walked in the room with no fanfare and simply said "hello", took her seat and started to answer our questions. I was the second person to ask a question. She listened intently the questions and gave thorough answers to all. In response to my question she basically said that we need a test but not the PARCC and that more stakeholders needed to be involved in the making of that test. She also agreed that federal money should not be tied to test results. At the end she orchestrated a group photo and then took a photograph with the contest winners and Randi Weingarten. All in all, it was a great experience, one that I will never forget. On January 20, 2017 as I watch Secretary Clinton get sworn in as President of the United States, I will say to myself I shook the hand of the President.

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HRC: How would you ensure money for ed is not tied to testing?


North Bergen Federation of Teachers president Liz Lynch attended an education roundtable with Secretary Clinton in New Hampshire

Liz Lynch:I’ve been teaching for 30 years, and I’m all for teachers being fairly held accountable for ensuring that our students are learning. But what I’ve seen in the last four or five years is crazy.

Students have been made to take paper and pencil tests in PE and music just so they can be evaluated. Teachers spend an inordinate amount of time giving benchmark tests to prepare for more tests. And all the testing is crowding out time my students and I used to spend on cooperative learning, critical thinking and project-based learning.

President Obama recently said that our children have endured too much testing. What can we do to move away from all this testing and return the joy of learning and teaching to the classroom? And how would you ensure that federal money for education is not tied to test results?

Secretary Hillary Clinton: I was glad to hear the president make that statement because I certainly agree with him that I think we have become much too focused on testing, and there have been too many tests. So I’ve said from the beginning of the campaign we need fewer, better tests.

I believe in diagnostic testing that teachers can use to try to figure out how to help individuals and classes deal with their learning challenges. I do believe that there can be and should be a set of tests that everybody agrees on. That’s the way it was all those many years ago when I was going to school, and that’s the way it was for a very long time. So we do need as a first priority to figure out: What are the tests that should be administered? When? And what do we do with them?

And I have for a very long time also been against the idea that you tie teacher evaluation and even teacher pay to test outcomes. There’s no evidence. There’s no evidence. Now, there is some evidence that it can help with school performance. If everybody is on the same team and they’re all working together, that’s a different issue, but that’s not the way it’s been presented…

…I think with the ESEA, as I understand it, with the changes that have been made or at least we hope are going to be made, we’ll move beyond that. But then we’ll have to do the hard work, and I would look to the AFT for advice on this. OK, what are the tests, because you’ve got to have something? And what should they be, and how often should they be administered, and what should they be used for? And I would be very open to your experience and your suggestions about that…

…[W]hat are we going to do to once again kind of open the curriculum? If we’re going to save time and stress from limiting the tests, then what are going to do about that? What are going to bring back into the schools?

I think it’s tragic that so many schools, and principally schools in poor areas that serve poor kids, have been stripped of arts education, of even PE, even recess time. It’s just crazy to me. And so, we’ve got to be much more focused on how we re-create the classroom school experience so that kids have the chance for their talents to be recognized and blossom. That’s what I believe.

(left to right) Ohio teacher Dorothy Fair, Secretary Clinton, Liz Lynch, West Virginia teacher Greg Cruey, Randi Weingarten