What a Trump presidency will mean for US schools

As the dust settles after the historic result of the US presidential election, commentators are reflecting on what a Trump presidency might look like for the nation’s schools.

Donald Trump future of US education
"Common Core is a total disaster. We can't let it continue," announced Donald Trump while on the campaign trail. Indeed, America’s new President-elect pulled no punches when it came to criticising current education policy in the US. And, while some think tanks and teaching union representatives are calling his understanding of US state-run education into serious question, Mr Trump's views do reflect a growing concern about the effectiveness of 'Common Core' assesment.

Trump to call an end to Common Core in US schools

Since its introduction in 2009, the Common Core State Standards initiative has proved divisive and controversial among education and government officials alike.Education policy and school administration is organised entirely at state level in the US and has resulted in wide variation in education content and structure across the nation’s schools.Introduced as a set of “high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/ literacy,” the Common Core standards outline what a student should know, and be able to do, at the end of each grade. The standards were created to “ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life.”However, along with these standards came routine testing to ensure that pupils, in participating states, were meeting the targets set by the Common Core. And it is this standardised testing in schools that has become a massively controversial issue in the US, with a recent study from the Council of the Great City Schools suggesting that students would sit around 112 standardised tests between kindergarten and 12th grade.President Obama has also accepted that the pressure of over-assessment in schools has become unbearable. “I hear from parents who, rightly, worry about too much testing,” he said in a statement, “and from teachers who feel so much pressure to teach to a test that it takes the joy out of teaching and learning, both for them and for the students. I want to fix that.” President Obama pledged to rationalise the number of standardised tests in US schools in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed in December 2015.President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to end the Common Core Standards initiative in the US but, according to Michael Petrilli, president of the conservative thinktank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, it might not be that simple. “That’s not an issue any president has much say over,” he said in a statement the morning after the election, “academic standards are under the firm control of the state.”

Trump on school choice

What Mr Trump is firm on is his stance on school choice. "As your President, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” he said in a visit during his campaign to a school in Ohio.“My first budget will immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice,” he announced. “This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars. We will give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend.”Allowing pupil funding to be allocated to a school system by parental choice, otherwise known as a ‘voucher’ scheme, has not been received well by teaching unions in the US. The National Education Association (NEA) has heavily criticised the scheme.“His silver bullet approach does nothing to help the most-vulnerable students and ignores glaring opportunity gaps while taking away money from public schools to fill private-sector coffers,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.“No matter what you call it, vouchers take dollars away from our public schools to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense.”It is clear that America is entering a period of uncertainty in all areas of public policy and there are many questions that remain unanswered. When asked what a Trump administration would really mean for US education and schools following the surprise election result, Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli replied, “the honest answer is that none of us knows for sure.”

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