Inside Bill Clinton’s nearly $18 million job as ‘honorary chancellor’ of a for-profit college


Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Penn State student Gabrielle Mannino

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Penn State student Gabrielle Mannino

Kevin Kinser, head of Penn State’s Department of Education and Policy Studies, was quoted in a Washington Post article about Bill Clinton’s “honorary chancellor” position with a for-profit college company called Laureate International Universities. An excerpt of this story featuring Kinser is below:

“People who participated in the dinner said they remember a high-level conversation about using education to boost diplomacy, held amid antique furniture in the State Department’s elegant James Monroe room. Duffey spoke positively of Laureate’s approach to overseas expansion, according to one participant.

“Kevin Kinser, who studies for-profit colleges at Pennsylvania State University, said that given Laureate’s rapid growth, it was not unreasonable to include a company representative in that setting. But he said Laureate’s inclusion just months before Bill Clinton began being paid by the company does not look good.

“ ‘They were clearly a legitimate participant in this sort of event,’ he said. ‘But knowing what we know now, it does seem unseemly.’ ”


Will the new education law allow for teachers with lower qualifications?

Photo credit: biologycorner/Flickr

Photo credit: biologycorner/Flickr

Gail L. Bolt | Professor of Education
Bernard J. Badiali | Associate Professor of Education


On December 9, Congress passed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, called the Every Child Succeeds Act.

Gail Boldt

Gail Boldt

A replacement for the much criticized No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the reauthorization gained support from groups as diverse as The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Education Association, the National Parent Teacher Association, The National School Boards Association, the National Governors Association and Fairtest, an organization that addresses issues related to fairness and accuracy in testing.

Bernard Badiali

Bernard Badiali

With such overwhelming support, it could well be argued that it must be a sound legislation. But, is it?

We have been elementary and secondary school teachers as well as professors and researchers of elementary education, teacher education and teacher development for more than 35 years. And we believe that despite its efforts to redress the problems caused by NCLB, ESSA contains at least one disturbing provision.

We are alarmed by the section of the law that allows states to authorize the establishment of alternative-track teacher education academies, with lower standards and accountabilty for teaching qualifications.

Teacher academies

The support for the ESSA has largely come from its reducing much of the heavy-handed federal oversight of education. States and local school districts can now make more decisions about how best to support student learning.

We are happy that the ESSA supports less testing. In addition, it emphasizes a “well-rounded education.” Students will study arts alongside the academic subjects that were favored under No Child Left Behind.

However, our concern is the inclusion in Title II of the ESSA of language which authorizes routes to teacher certification that attempt to fast-track the preparation of teachers for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade positions.

Nationwide, in order for graduates of teacher education programs based in colleges and universities to gain state certification as a teacher, the programs must follow state requirements such as required entrance and exit exams and the number of credit hours in specific subjects such as reading, math and special education.

In the new ESSA legislation, the envisioned fast-track academies will be exempt from states’ teacher certification requirements.

In other words, they do not have to meet the standards for accountability and accreditation required of university-based teacher education programs.

Kenneth Zeichner, a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington at Seattle, has described this as “promoting the growth of entrepreneurial teacher education programs.”

As Zeichner and another education researcher, César Peña-Sandoval, note, while most of the new ventures in public education, including already existing alternative certification programs, are nonprofits, they gain serious tax advantages from their public status. Such programs receive public funding, and contract out services to for-profit providers, which in many cases are associated with the financial backers of the venture.

Indeed, with the market size of American public education at nearly US$800 billion and legislation friendly to private investment in public education increasing, education is the new great field for entrepreneurial profit.

Teachers without adequate qualifications?

We find it troubling that the legislation allows states to use federal funding for the creation of academies and stipulates that its graduates will be recognized with the same state-issued certification as those who have completed a university-based teacher education program.

States may choose – but are not required – to use up to 2 percent of their education budget to support the academies.

But then, the legislation limits state oversight as well. For example, states will not be allowed to require those teaching at the academies to have experience, degrees or training in education, to hold advanced degrees or to conduct academic research.

This leaves the door open for academies to hire faculty that suit their religious, moral or philosophical values. Or for supporting profit-making ventures, which include promoting the use of commercially manufactured curriculum materials, which may not support student learning as compared to research-based methods.

What’s more, the academies are not required to obtain accreditation.

And what this means is that state departments of education, which hold credentialing authority for teachers, will not be able to mandate that the academies require a specific number of courses or types of coursework such as courses on the teaching of reading or mathematics.

Additionally, the academies do not have to have physical infrastructure, paving the way for entirely on-line teacher preparation programs.

Once someone graduates from an academy, according to the legislation, the certificate may be treated as the equivalent of a master’s degree in education for the purposes of hiring, compensation, retention and promotion. Here is what the act says.

Back to testing?

So why do we find the elimination of standards for teacher education in the ESSA so troubling?

We have two major concerns.

The first is the assumption in the new ESSA that if the teacher knows enough to pass a state-designated content exam in, for example, social studies, science, literature or math, then that teacher is prepared to teach the content. An understanding of how to teach and what is learned beyond testable content is ignored.

Content exams suggest that teacher candidates have the minimum level of knowledge to teach. Passing these tests, which is required in most states, is intended primarily to signal that candidates have a minimum level of knowledge and competency, but does not predict their future effectiveness in the classroom in teaching that content.

Teacher education programs therefore include a strong emphasis on developing pedagogic knowledge and a research-based understanding of student learning.

Pedagogical knowledge – how students learn or fail to learn and how that understanding must be incorporated in approaches to teaching – is well established.

It involves not only student learning of subject matter, but teaching in ways that support students to develop confidence in their own capacities to ask and answer questions in the world, as well as to to think and engage actively, creatively and critically.

However, such pedagogical knowledge is not required for graduates of alternative academies.

By way of “quality control,“ the legislation does require that the teacher candidate demonstrates that she or he is effective at boosting student achievement. The candidates must be placed in classrooms as teachers prior to the completion of their program. This does not require notification to parents of the teacher’s status.

What it may mean to boost student achievement is not specified in the law.

Our second concern is that raising student test scores will be the primary metric of this assessment.

If testing remains, as it has been under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the primary measure of a quality education, then once again it is the students, their families, communities and ultimately the nation that will be saddled with the fallout of a narrow and alienating curriculum.

Who will be affected?

We are also deeply troubled by the prospect that if virtually unregulated teacher certification academies with little academic quality control are allowed to proliferate, the employers of their graduates will be either charter schools, many operating in high-poverty communities, or traditional public schools that lack the resources to be selective and competitive in hiring the best-qualified teachers.

The law itself describes its intention to prepare teachers to work in “high-needs” areas, which include both communities and subject or specialization areas experiencing teacher shortages.

High-poverty urban and rural schools are far more likely to be subject to teacher shortages than schools serving a wealthier population. These high-need schools are also most likely to be staffed by the less experienced, least effective teachers.

Once again, as often happens under the privately managed charter school model, underprepared teachers will end up in the poorest and neediest schools, thereby exacerbating the problem of inequitable educational outcomes for children living in poverty. Studies have shown that the student achievement gap widens when teacher qualifications are unequally allocated to students by race, income and location.

We believe that the provisions in the new law that have the potential to undermine teacher quality can and should be scrutinized before states begin their implementation. States do not have to elect to support these academies.

The American public can and should demand that our schools serve the civic good and the well-being of children and their communities by staffing schools with well-qualified teachers who are prepared to support all children as active, creative and critical thinkers.

The ConversationRead this story on The Conversation (March 25, 2016)


No Child Left Behind’s replacement has its own flaws

Photo Credit: iStock photo © Christopher Futcher

Photo Credit: iStock photo © Christopher Futcher

Dana Mitra | Professor of Education, Co-director of the Center for the Study of Leadership and Ethics


Move over, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — the federal law that introduced yearly high-stakes testing to schools nationwide. Several years overdue, the federal education act was finally reauthorized mid-December in a new version of legislation — Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This bill replaces NCLB as well as Obama’s Race to the Top and NCLB waiver programs.

The main headline, however, is that this new piece of legislation won’t feel different to most families. The testing era continues for our children, much to the dismay of many. Students still must take mandatory tests every year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. Most children with special needs will still take the tests with no accommodations, regardless of their learning needs. English Language Learners will still take the test the first year they enter the U.S. public school system, regardless of their language ability (although the reporting of the ELL scores has changed slightly).

Dana Mitra

Dana Mitra

States, districts and schools under ESSA will notice greater changes than families. The biggest change to the law is that nearly all decision-making authority has been delegated back to the states, who now once again have great discretion regarding choice of assessment, standards and consequences for failure. Because of this discretion, what ESSA looks like in schools will vary greatly depending on what each state decides to do.

States will also get to decide how to allow families to opt out of standardize tests. Here in Pennsylvania, we have one of the broadest opt-out laws on the books, and it looks unlikely to change with the new legislation. Any family can choose to opt out of PSSAs for religious or ethical reasons. A simple procedure, it involves contacting the school principal, coming in to view the exam, then sending an email to the school superintendent expressing the ethical/religious reason for opting out.

Thus, what will be true across the nation is that schools will no longer be judged solely on test scores. States will decide how to evaluate schools based on a portfolio of measures. States now must also include standardized tests, graduation rates and English Language proficiency. The greatest change is the addition of an “opportunity to learn” measurement as a part of assessing school progress. States get to pick this indicator, which could focus on student engagement, teacher engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework or school climate, among other options.

States will also have discretion regarding how to try to improve the bottom 5 percent of schools. Gone are mandatory tutoring and school choice consequences. Now, the districts must create a turnaround plan if they have schools measuring in the bottom 5 percent statewide or have high dropout rates. If schools fail to show improvement after four years, states could choose to fire teachers and administrators or turn the school into a public charter, much like the current legislation.

This 1,061-page bill contains a much broader set of policies than usually makes the headlines. I highlight three notable changes from NCLB. First is a dramatic increase in the recognition of the need for Early Childhood Education policy, including funding for program coordination, quality and broadening access to early-childhood education.

Second, teachers and teacher organizations are extremely happy that teacher evaluations are no longer tied to standardized testing. Additionally, many funding streams for teacher support have increased, including professional development monies, class size reduction and funding to train teachers on literacy and STEM issues (science, technology, engineering and math).

The largest red flag of the bill, and the one not being spoken about, is the creation of Teacher Preparation Academies (TPAs). ESSA considers completion of TPAs as equivalent to a master’s degree for the purposes of hiring, retention, compensation and promotion. Instructors in these academies do not even need a higher degree to prepare teachers. These alternative pathways will create a much lower quality certification standard for teacher preparation than traditional teaching programs.

Teacher education experts are starting to sound the alarm of the dire consequences that this part of the legislation could cause, as well as raising the question of the legal ability of the federal government to decide what can and cannot count as a master’s degree in individual states. Research has shown that Teach for America and Teacher Fellowship models have failed to adequately support and retain teachers, and this new version of training teachers quickly will lead to the least prepared teachers being placed in the classrooms with high levels of underachieving children and the fewest resources.

While many hoped that new legislation would bring a reduction to student testing, the new law tinkers with high-stakes assessment rather than dramatically changing it. The main changes have occurred in the smaller policies passed as part of the massive legislation, including the promise of early childhood funding and the potential for lower-quality teacher preparation. Missing from the bill are efforts to address the larger issues of education policy, including how to improve the equity of school funding and to address the growing segregation of our schools.

Read this column on (Jan. 27, 2016)

Skip to toolbar