Education Week - December 13, 2017 - 1
VOL. 37, NO. 15 * DECEMBER 13, 2017
AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2017 Editorial Projects in Education * $ 5
BRE AKING NEWS DAILY
EDUCATOR SURVEY: POLITICAL LEANINGS
The Ohio social studies teacher is judicious about sharing his own viewpoints with students.
Leaving Partisan Divisions
Outside Their Classrooms
Caleb Kenna for Education Week
Dustin Franz for Education Week
By Alyson Klein
A district superintendent in Vermont, she aims to stay "above the fray" on polarizing issues.
Rise for All, Experts
Differ on Causes
By Catherine Gewertz
& Sarah D. Sparks
There seems no consensus about whether
the across-the-board increases in U.S. graduation rates reported by the federal government last week are the result of No Child Left
Behind-era accountability mechanisms or the
data-based decisionmaking stressed under the
Obama administration, more early-warning
systems to identify potential dropouts, or
fewer high school exit exams.
But whatever the reason, the numbers
themselves gave educators and policymakers
reason for cautious optimism. The new data
show that U.S. students are graduating at record numbers for the fifth year in a row, with
improvements for students of different racial
and language backgrounds, as well as those in
poverty or with disabilities.
The graduation rate for the high school
class of 2015-16 is nearly a whole point
higher than the one for the previous year's
class, which was 83.2 percent, according to
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Andrew Zimmerman, a social studies
teacher and self-described libertarian, and
Jeanné Collins, a superintendent and big
fan of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, aren't anyone's idea of political
But both educators agree on one thing: It
isn't their role to talk about their own political beliefs at school, particularly in an
increasingly polarized climate.
"I usually don't tell my students my viewpoints," said Zimmerman, a high school
teacher in Uhrichsville, Ohio, in a county that
voted overwhelmingly for Republican Donald
Trump in last year's presidential election. "It's
my job to show as many different perspectives as possible."
That's been tricky this past year. Zimmerman, who also advises the debate club, said
it's been hard to find any student willing to
take up the Democratic side of an argument.
Similarly, Collins, the superintendent of the
Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union district in deep-blue Vermont, said she sees her
role as staying "above the fray," even though
her left-leaning political beliefs align closely
with the majority of voters in her community.
But while many educators guard against
bringing their personal views into the classroom, they are hardly apolitical as a group, a
national survey by the Education Week Research Center shows.
About half of the teachers, school principals, superintendents, and other educators
who participated in the survey say they don't
avoid political activity, or avoid it only a little,
because of their jobs. Another 48 percent say
they avoid political activity to "some" extent
or "a lot" because of the work they do.
The research center surveyed 1,122
teachers, school, and district leaders about
their political beliefs, perceptions, activity, and voting. The survey, conducted this
fall, has a margin of error of plus or minus
5 percentage points. About half of those
who responded were teachers, and another
19 percent were principals.
A few key findings:
* Forty one percent of respondents described themselves as Democrats while
another 30 percent said they were indepenPAGE 18 >
Where do educators
See snapshots from our national survey
of educators on the following topics:
n Political Orientation
n Teachers' Unions
n Charters & School Choice
n LGBT Issues and the Schoolhouse
View their responses, Pages 18-20
The Fight to Make School Boards Reflect Communities
In California, a Quest
To Give Minority Voters
A Bigger Voice
By Denisa R. Superville
After hours spent knocking on
doors and introducing himself to
voters in west Modesto, Adolfo Lopez
won a seat on the school board in
this Central Valley city.
Lopez, 26, is now the only Hispanic
member of a seven-member board that
governs a district of 32,000 students,
more than 61 percent of them Latino.
As a first-time candidate, Lopez was
prompted to run in last month's election to represent a part of Modesto composed heavily of low-income, Hispanic,
and immigrant families and neighborhoods where residents have long felt
Shift to Party-Driven Elections
Looms as a Wild Card in N.C.
overlooked. November's election marked
the first time that west Modesto voters
could elect a board member to represent
their specific community-a move many
hope will make the school board more
attuned to their needs.
"It finally gives them the ability
to have a representative from the
area, that knows the area, that has
lived through the same experiences,"
Lopez said. "People see themselves
in the process."
Across California, school districts
have slowly been switching from atlarge elections to single-member districts to comply with the California
Voting Rights Act of 2001-a statute
designed to make it easier for Hispanic and other minority communities to elect candidates to local offices.
The law-the only one of its kind
among states-allows legal challenges
to at-large systems if plaintiffs can
The volatile mix of partisan politics and school
board elections is on full display in North Carolina.
The Republican-controlled legislature in the
last five years has systematically flipped the
election process for more than a quarter of the
state's 116 local school boards from nonpartisan
races to ones in which candidates are identified
by party affiliation.
Depending on whom you talk to in this politically
purple state, it's a historic shift that could lead to
much-needed transparency, upend board-member
relations, or shrink black and Latino political representation in a racially and ethnically diverse state.
The push toward partisan school board elections
in North Carolina has gained momentum since
2013, shortly after the federal government loosened
the reins on Voting Rights Act restrictions under
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By Daarel Burnette II