Saturday, December 29, 2007

Obama: Save arts, music, language, literature

The presidential primary process may get a little tiring after a while, but one thing I like about it is it gives a lot of regular folks the chance to talk to the candidates and ask them real questions about things that concern them in their personal experience.

Already in this presidential race, we've seen that you can walk up to them and ask a question in New Hampshire and that a five-year-old can get an interview with a presidential contender in North Carolina.

Now in Iowa, a high school student gets to ask her question to Barack Obama. And it's a good one.

Amelia Schoeneman joined the editorial board of the Quad City Times of Davenport, Iowa, in a session with Barack Obama, where she told him her high schools is constantly fighting for funding to keep its arts program going. She wanted to know how Obama could help.

If you follow the link you can hear his reply yourself. Basically, he said we need to change No Child Left Behind so all the focus is not on reading, math and science. Specifically, he wants to make sure arts, music, foreign language, social studies and literature are covered.

To do this, Obama said we need to change the way kids are tested. And, he argued, if we do it will reduce dropouts by making school more engaging.

This post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: Quad City Times)

Friday, December 28, 2007

More on Romney vs. Huckabee

At Education Week, we took a detailed look at the education records of the three candidates with gubernatorial experience—Huckabee, Romney, and Richardson.

In this ongoing debate between Huckabee and Romney over who is best, it's difficult to settle the matter because the two served for different amounts of time, in very different states, under different circumstances.

Romney, as governor of Massachusetts for four years from 2003-'07, staked out his position as a supporter of high-stakes testing and accountability, tried for merit pay, and angered the teachers' union

Huckabee was governor of Arkansas for a decade, from 1996-2007, presiding during a time when the state Supreme Court ruled the school funding system unconstitutional, which earned him respect for his handling of this even from Democrats.

Both states saw their NAEP scores rise during these governors' tenures, but their starting points were different. Massachusetts' scores were already high to begin with; while Arkansas' were pretty dismal.

It's tough to be the best

When it comes to dealing with education, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee recently told an Iowa debate crowd that he had the "most impressive" record among the GOP hopefuls. Like most superlatives, that's not easy to prove - especially when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney can boast some pretty positive results himself. Then there's Huckabee's critics, who contend he claims more credit than he deserves. “He was the governor of Arkansas, but as far as being part of the process, he was not present. There was no leadership at all,” Tom Kimbrell, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, told the St. Petersburg Times' To see the whole story, click here. To see the debate clip, click here - it's at 3:23.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Digging beneath the surface

Serious apologies for dropping off the face of the earth. Life has been more than a little insane. We shall hope that changes soon.

Anyway, to education, election and the fun associated with both.

Sam Dillon's NYT piece on Democrats' concerns about NCLB notes a Clinton campaign stop in which she said she will end NCLB. From Dillon's story:

"And at the elementary school in Waterloo, Mrs. Clinton said she would 'do everything I can as senator, but if we don’t get it done, then as president, to end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind.
'But she, too, added: 'We do need accountability.'”

You can read the whole story here.

The likelihood of NCLB being reauthorized before the next presidential election looks mighty slim, even though Kennedy and Miller have said it is a priority. But bear in mind that NCLB is a law that reaches back to the 1960s and is more than the Title I mandates related to standards, testing, accountability and teacher quality that candidates and most of the public say are flawed. We should be pressing our candidates to be specific about what they would replace the law with. And ask how they would beef up spending (referring to Clinton's comment, and the wide-spread belief that the law is an "unfunded mandate." ESEA originally was a civil rights law aimed at closing achievement gaps. It has been "overhauled" and expanded several times in its lifetime and includes a host of chapters few people know about. Worth thinking about as we chase our candidates, especially those who are on the education committees, like Clinton.

~ Cathy

Monday, December 17, 2007

Obama the Clear Favorite of Academic Donors

College administrators, faculty members, and other educators have donated just over $6.2-million to the presidential candidates so far this election season, with more than three-quarters of the donations going to Democrats.

A package of stories and graphics running in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week provides details about some of the top academic donors to the candidates and why they are giving.

Sen. Barack Obama is the clear favorite of college employees. The Democrat from Illinois has received about one-third of the total, or slightly more than $2.1-million, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonpartisan research group.

The amount donated to Mr. Obama is nearly 30 percent more than what Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York, has received. She ranked second with about $1.6-million.

Mitt Romney, the top Republican on the list, received less than one-third of the amount Mr. Obama got from academe. The former governor of Massachusetts raked in close to $564,000 from higher education.

By institution, the employees of Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia Universities top the list of total donations to presidential candidates. Harvard's employees were the top donors to Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton, and Mr. Romney.

Homechoolers for Huckabee

Both the New York Times and Washington Post today described the impact home-schooling parents are having in Iowa on behalf of Mike Huckabee.

Reported the Times: "Mike is the kind of candidate we have hoped for,” said Michael Farris, an evangelical Christian and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, a group that defends parents’ rights to educate their children at home. “He’s a man who shares a world view with evangelical Christians.”

The support grows out of Huckabee appointing a home-schooling parent to the state board of education.

Sparring over Obama's education advice

(Barack Obama at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.)

Barack Obama has named Standford education research heavyweight Linda Darling-Hammond as his education adviser. And not everybody is happy about it.

Blogger Alexander Russo over at This Week in Education points to some cranky comments by an Obama fan who thinks Darling-Hammond is a step backward for Obama's chances of proposing serious reform.

The good news for Alexander is that Darling-Hammond apparently checks in at This Week. She sends him a rebuttal of the criticism.

This post also appears at my education blog, Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: Iowa Politics Blog)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Education advisers

Curious who's advising the candidates day-to-day on education? While familiar names populate the official advisory panels, the folks slogging it out day-to-day on education issues aren't necessarily familiar names. Over at This Week in Education, Alexander Russo has a self-described work-in-progress that aims to put together a list. Take a look. I'm sure Russo would welcome contributions.

Richard Whitmire

Bloomie challenge?

What would happen to education as an issue -- and to the '08 race as a whole -- if Mayor Bloomberg decided to throw in his hat? The speculation starts here.
Richard Whitmire

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mitt Romney's Education Advisers

Republican president hopeful Mitt Romney becomes the latest candidate to release his list of education advisers. You can see the entire list here, and read about it at my EdWeek Campaign K-12 blog, but the 22-member committee is clearly a who's who of GOP education policy wonks, with a healthy mix of federal and state policy experts. A few of us at EdWeek combed through the list, and here are some of the highlights:

—Nina S. Rees is a new Romney convert. The former Bush-Cheney adviser originally was advising Republican presidential competitor and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, but has now joined Romney's camp as its education co-chair.

—The three other co-chairs are Paul E. Peterson, a government professor at Harvard University and the director of the program on education policy and governance at the university's John F. Kennedy School of Government, plus U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, who is the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard of Colorado.

—At least two of the committee members were big-wigs in Florida education policy. John Winn was the state's education commissioner under then-Gov. Jeb Bush from 2004-2007, while Mary Laura Bragg helped implement one of Jeb Bush's hallmark literacy programs, Just Read! Florida.

—William D. Hansen also made the list. He's a former deputy U.S. secretary of education who now works with Rod Paige, a former first-term education secretary under President Bush, and whose implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act has been criticized. Paige founded the Chartwell Education Group consulting firm, of which Hansen is a director.

—Romney tapped several Massachusetts education policy wonks. James A. Peyser, who is now a partner with the NewSchools Venture Fund of California (which has raised $100 million to help start new charter schools), was a Romney education adviser in Massachusetts, along with Robert M. Costrell, now an education reform and economics professor at the University of Arkansas.

—Eugene W. Hickok, who works for the lobbying firm Dutko Worldwide, is on Romney's committee as well. The former Pennsylvania secretary of education and a former No. 2 official in the federal Department of Education under President Bush in March paid $50,000 to settle possible conflict-of-interest charges over stock he owned in a bank that participated in the federal student-loan program

Education: The wind in Obama's sails?

Have you noticed that ever since Barack Obama announced his education platform he's suddenly leading in Iowa and getting more press attention?

Note to the other candidates: Voters are interested in education.

OK, so maybe Obama's new momentum can't ALL be attributed to the education proposals he's making. I suppose having the world's most popular talk show host campaigning for him in Iowa might be a factor.

And there was that intriguing breakfast meet up with Michael Bloomberg, the popular Democratic mayor of New York. (That was such a circus the waitress who earned a $10 tip on a $17 bill from Obama was the subject of a whole separate story in the next day's Daily News.)

Even so, the Obama education plan has people talking in South Carolina, another important primary state. On a conference call with Palmetto State reporters, Obama explained further his views on testing and teacher incentives.

Meanwhile, Obama dipped his toe in the debate over bilingual vs. English-only programs for English language learners, coming down strongly in the bilingual camp in a Scripps News Service story about where the candidates stand on the issue.

Despite the surge of interest in his campaign, not all the Obama press has been good when it comes to education. He drew a quick rebuke from Mitt Romney recently when he admitted to students in New Hampshire that he was a goof off in high school who tried drugs and drank before getting his act together. Romney said he wasn't sure that was a message students needed to hear from a potential role model.

This post also appears on my education blog Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: Wall Street Journal)

Edwards: Tapping Working-Class Roots to Focus on Opportunity

Few contenders this presidential season have made higher education as fundamental to their candidacy as has John Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina. He has called for simplifying federal financial aid, overhauling the student-loan system, and providing a year’s free tuition to all college students. For Mr. Edwards, who grew up making do in small, Southern towns, the issue of college access feeds into a broader theme of his campaign, that of providing economic, educational, and social opportunity to all Americans.

In the the latest installment of The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading candidates for president, we take a look at Mr. Edwards’s efforts to establish a pilot college-access program in his home state and how his own experience could shape his perspective as president.

We have also posted a Q&A from a Chronicle interview Mr. Edwards that was conducted in 2006, when he was director of the Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Republican YouTube Debate didn't feature education

The issue of education only came up indirectly during the YouTube Republican Debate. One person asked Mike Huckabee about his effort to allow illegal immigrants who went through the school system to qualify for merit scholarships. The questioner wanted to know whether the children of Iraq War veterans should get the same break.

Mitt Romney seized the opportunity to disparage Huckabee's support of the bill (which died in the Arkansas legislature).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Obama's big education plan is out

(Obama at a New Hampshire high school.)

I suppose you could say he is shooting for the moon.

In a speech earlier this week, Barack Obama laid out an $18 billion education plan that he has been hinting about for weeks.

And delaying NASA's return to the moon is one way he hopes to raise the money to pay for his proposals.

There is a "mend it, don't end it" theme to the plan, which calls for keeping the required testing of No Child Left Behind but wants to find "more accurate" ways to assess students that don't depend entirely on standardized tests.

On teacher pay, he favors expirimenting with merit pay and "hazard pay" or paying teachers extra for taking on more challenging assignments. These are ideas that the nation's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, opposes. But NEA president Reg Weaver is quoted in a USA Today story saying Obama's plan did not alarm him.

Obama also proposes expanded federal aid for early childhood programs and money to support longer school days for schools that want to try that approach.

To pay for the plan, Obama wants to close a tax loophole on CEO pay and delay NASA missions to the moon and to Mars. He argues that we won't have the engineers and scientists to make those missions go some day if we don't invest the money in education now.

If you follow the USA Today story link above, you can download Obama's speech on education.

The post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Romney Brings a Businessman's Perspective to Higher Education

After being elected governor of Massachusetts, one of Mitt Romney’s first acts was to propose far-reaching changes in the state’s public-college system.

Mr. Romney’s audacious overhaul failed, felled by opposition from a Democratic legislature and public colleges themselves. But political observers say his effort offers insight into the Republican presidential hopeful’s leadership style as well as the way in which he uses data to drive policy decisions.

In the fifth of The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading presidential candidates, we look at how Mr. Romney’s four years as governor may offer important clues about how he might tackle higher-education issues if elected president.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Obama: Give kids the chance I had

(Obama and Clinton at last week's debate)

Barack Obama last week unveiled a new campaign ad in New Hampshire focused on education in which he touts early childhood education and says he wants to recruit new teachers.

Obama recalls his own childhood and says all children deserve the chances he had to get a good education.

It's an interesting ad in that it comes from someone who greatly benefitted from the American educational meritocracy and who is clearly bought into the idea that education can lift people from poverty to opportunity through hard work and ingenuity.

Can it work on a wide scale, not just for a select few? He seems to say it can, if we start early enough and have the right people at the front of the classroom.

(Image credit: AP)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Democratic Education Debate

Democratic candidates were asked only one direct question about education at Thursday night's debate.
Bill Richardson, who told the crowd he wanted to be the "education president," was one of four candidates asked if they supported merit pay for teachers.
Despite the chance to tell voters how he feels about the subject, one that is at the heart of education debates across the country, Richardson instead fell back on his worn-out and, depending on your point of view (see Jay Mathews' comments on a previous blog), not-so highly acclaimed ed platform.
He repeated his plan to pay teachers a minimum $40,000, start math and science academies, have universal preschool and exchange college tuition for national service. He also stuck with the one thing that really sets him apart from other candidates, getting rid of NCLB. But he failed to say anything about merit pay, too bad.
To find out what else Richardson and other candidates had to say, you can see the entire video at the NY Times Web site, along with a cool transcript analyzer that allows you to search for specific topics or key words.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Education Platforms

We've added many of the presidential candidates' positions on education to our righthand column under Education Platform. Some candidates have full-fledged education issues pages while others have only brief mentions of education and still others don't have an "education" issues page, but a "youth" page.

We didn't include a link to John McCain, because I couldn't find education among his issues. If anyone could offer one, I'd welcome a link.

Obama: A Favorite of Academe Who Once Led Harvard Through a Racial Storm

One of the early tests of Barack Obama’s political skills came when he was a law student at Harvard University in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the midst of intense campus debates over faculty diversity and other divisive issues, Mr. Obama became the first black student to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. At the law journal, he presided over difficult discussions among intellectuals with widely different views. Yet his professors say he was able to set an amicable tone and, at the same time, hold fast to his own beliefs.

In the fourth of The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading candidates for president, we take a look at how Mr. Obama has won the favor of many in academe and the kind of “professorial president” he might make if he were elected.

On our Campaign U. blog we have also published the full transcript of a Q&A we conducted via email with Mr. Obama's campaign. In it, he discusses his views and positions on various higher-education topics, including affirmative action, the federal government's role in reining in college costs, and the importance of education in preparing working families for a global economy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuition Breaks for Children of Illegal Immigrants

The issue of immigration has been particularly divisive within the Republican Party and, today, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, criticized his GOP opponents for backing tuition assistance for children of illegal immigrants. Usually, what this means is states give students whose parents are illegal immigrants the lower-tuition, in-state status if they meet all other residency and academic requirements. (I blogged about this, too, on my EdWeek blog, Campaign K-12).

Specifically, Romney targeted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for supporting 2005 legislation in Arkansas that would have granted in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani for supporting a similar policy at City University.

Huckabee has openly defended his support of such measures. Last month, he said on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour:

"You don't punish the child for the parents having broken the law. We don't do that. We don't say, 'OK, your parents broke a law, so we're going to punish you for it.' I just don`t understand why anybody would think that that's a good thing to do."

Policymakers and judges have been wrestling with this for years, which reminds me of the important 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler vs. Doe. In that case, the justices ruled that no, it wasn't a very good thing for Texas in the mid-1970s to deny a free public education to children of illegal immigrants.

The majority (it was a 5-4 vote) decision states that the state shouldn't have "impose[d] its discriminatory burden on the basis of a legal characteristic over which children can have little control."

Though this is a different situation -- and college aid isn't guaranteed by any state's Constitution -- the fundamental issues are very similar, even decades later.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Report highlights need for preschool access

A new report by The National Institute for Early Education Research likely gives Sen. Hillary Clinton added fuel for her universal preschool initiative. The report notes that minority children, and those from “low-income, poorly educated families” in the West and Midwest, have the least access to quality preschool programs.
Governors across the nation -- including my own state, Virginia -- are trotting out preschool expansion proposals. Presidential candidates are on the preschool bandwagon as well. Clinton is on record with a detailed proposal to provide universal access to preschool, which would reach students highlighted in the NIEER report. To check out the report, visit NIEER here.
~ Cathy

Obama's Plan for Working Families

Barack Obama unveiled a plan yesterday that he pitched as a blueprint for how to help working families “reclaim the American Dream,” including by expanding access to college and better tailoring community-college programs to improve local economies.

Among his proposals, the Democratic senator from Illinois advocated a new tax credit of up to $4,000 per year for college tuition and fees that would be refundable, meaning that people whose income is so low that they do not owe taxes would still be able to benefit.

Mr. Obama said the $4,000 amount is equivalent to two-thirds of the cost of tuition at the average public college in the United States.

The senator also proposed to simplify the process of applying for federal financial aid by eliminating the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, known as Fafsa, and using tax data to determine eligibility instead.

On another front, Mr. Obama said he wanted to help tap the “tremendous resource” of community colleges. He proposed creating a Community College Partnership Program that would help institutions determine what technical and other skills they need to teach their students to help prepare them to work in local industries and to decide in which emerging fields the colleges should begin to offer new programs. The program also would reward colleges that increase their numbers of graduates.

For more news on higher education and the 2008 election, you can also visit The Chronicle's Campaign U. blog.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Romney's "Excellence in Education" Agenda

On the same day we learned that voters in Utah decisively shot down the nation's first universal private-school voucher program, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney—who has significant ties to the state—reiterated today that he will promote school choice as part of his education agenda.

So where was Romney during the voucher fight in Utah? He pretty much kept quiet, despite pleas from voucher advocates to lend his political capital to the fight.

Yet school choice has a prominent role in his education agenda, which he discussed today in South Carolina, along with other hot-button issues, such as merit-pay for teachers and changing the No Child Left Behind act to focus more on individual student progress rather than school progress.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Next Education President?

My colleague here at Education Week, David Hoff, spearheaded an Election '08 package that debuted this week with a story that gives a comprehensive overview of all of the major presidential candidates and their education platforms. You can read his piece here, check out candidate profiles here, and also peruse our Campaign K-12 blog here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Obama's a sucker for a reporter in tears

Imagine this -- a presidential candidate who says no questions from the media but then relents just because one of the reporters starts to cry?

That's what happened to Barack Obama in Durham, N.C., Thursday. Of course, the reporter was 5-year-old Hadassah Jones, who was trying to ask him questions on behalf of the Web site In the interview, Obama talked up health care and said every child should have a "nice school." (See the resulting video news story here.)

The rest of the media coverage of Obama lately was a bit more grown up.

In New Hampshire, The Citizen newspaper reports five people with education backgrounds in the state have signed on to advise Obama.

Meanwhile, Obama is on a civil rights kick on the campaign trail.

On Friday, his choice of speaking venue harkened to the early days of the school integration fight. Here's what he said on the court house steps in South Carolina:

"Imagine a President who was raised like I was by a single mom who had to work and go to school and raise her kids and accept food stamps for a while. Imagine a President who could go into Holly Courts Apartments here in Manning or Scott’s Branch High School in Summerton,(S.C.) and give the young men and women there someone to look up to. Imagine a President who fought each day to narrow the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be."

He stuck with the civil rights theme throughout the day, and the New York Times reports some of his family tree humor along with a few light touches on education.

This post also appears on my education blog,Get on the Bus
(Image credit: Boston Globe)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

TIMSS makes the debate "lightning round"

Education was the subject of the lightning round question in the seventh Democratic presidential candidates debate. After parrying jabs from her fellow candidates all night, Clinton took on the question – with a 30 second time limit – but didn’t offer much that was new. Here’s the question, as posed by NBC’s Brian Williams, and her response (both taken from the debate transcript posted on the New York Times Web site):

WILLIAMS: We're going to introduce the concept of a lightning round here. Take one question; go down the line. 30 seconds each -- a time we're going to enforce. … This is about something called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. It's called TIMSS. A number of overseas nations took part in it. It found that overseas students spend an average of 193 days annually in school. The deficit compared to the U.S., where it's 180 days -- over 12 years, that adds up to one-year gap between education in the U.S. and overseas. … Do you believe we in this country need to extend the school day and/or extend the school year? And will you commit to it?

CLINTON: Well, very quickly, I would start at the very beginning. We need to do more to help our families prepare their children. A family is a child's first school. The parents are a child's first teacher. This is something that I've worked on for many years.
We need to really support it through nurse visitation or social worker, child care. We need to do more with the pre-Kindergarten program that I have proposed.
In addition, though, this has to fit into an overall innovation agenda which I have also set forth because we can't just say go to school longer. We need to do what happened when I was in school and Sputnik went up and our teacher said, your president wants you study math and science. That's what I want kids today to feel, that it's part of making sure we maintain our quality of life and our standard of living.

~ Cathy Grimes

Obama taking more about education

Alexander Russo at This Week in Education has the scoop on Barack Obama's take on changing NCLB during an MTV/MySpace forum.

Meanwhile, The American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education is hailing Obama for his effort to spare the Teacher Quality Enhancement grant program from elimination in the budget. The group's president and CEO, Dr. Sharon P. Robinson, had this to say about Obama:

"Senator Obama is a true champion for education and is committed to ensuring that our nation has a supply of high-quality teachers."

This post also appears on my education blog: Get on the Bus.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Big Obama education plan coming in November

Barack Obama Friday rolled out a plan he said would greatly improve life in rural South Carolina and it included an education component.

Not only that, Obama said on a conference call that he would be rolling out a full education plan within a month:

“We’re going to be doing a roll-out of my education plan in much more specificity in the next two or three weeks. And we abide by my basic principle, which is we don’t propose any programs that we can’t pay for, so it will be structured in the context of other savings we have achieved elsewhere,” he said.

What will be in the plan? Well maybe the South Carolina proposal has some clues. In it he says federal dollars should be focused on rural areas to help with school construction. Look for a major early childhood education component, too:

“The federal government has to target where its dollars are going to make a difference,” he said. “Early education is an area where we think we can get a huge bang for the buck. The same is true when it comes to teacher pay tied to innovation in the schools.”

The Greenwood, S.C., Index Journal said Obama touted "partnerships between communities and state and federal governments" as "the only ways to adequately fund education."

The post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Good Read on Romney

Whatever you think about Republican Mitt Romney's ideas about education, it's worth reading Ryan Lizza's recent piece on the former Massachusetts governor in the latest issue of the New Yorker.

The article starts out by introducing readers to Romney the detail guy—a candidate who routinely checks his own web site and lets his campaign staff know when it needs more information. (Has he checked the education part of his web site lately?)

As the story explores the evolution of Romney the Candidate, it does touch a bit on education. Lizza points out how Romney's experience in management consulting influenced his education reform strategies. For example, as Massachusetts governor, he hired his former firm Bain & Co. in 2003 to evaluate the state's education system, which, Lizza writes:

"...formed the basis of a radical overhaul that would have increased fees and dismantled the system in place at the University of Massachusetts. In the corporate world, the Bainies, whose power emanated from the C.E.O.’s office, could implement their plans by diktat. On Beacon Hill, Romney had to deal with a Democratic legislature. The Bain education plan never passed."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Pull the plug on Illegals, says Thompson

In a speech Tuesday, former Tennessee Senator and Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said federal dollars should be withheld from municipalities that don't report illegal immigrants, according to The Associated Press.

"In his first major policy proposal, Thompson challenged presidential rivals Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney by criticizing "sanctuary cities" where city workers are barred from reporting suspected illegal immigrants who enroll their children in school or seek hospital treatment," the story said.

"Taxpayer money should not be provided to illegal immigrants," Thompson said at a round-table discussion that included Collier County, Fla., sheriff Don Hunter."

The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe said that undocumented children have the right to a free K-12 education in this country. Most states and school districts have a policy against their staffs asking students or their parents about their immigration status, including Thompson's home state of Tennessee.

--Dakarai I. Aarons

Richardson and others trailing Colbert

How unimpressed are voters with Bill Richardson and other presidential candidates? Enough that more of them say they would vote for Stephen Colbert than Richardson and other Democratic runners. It seems ridiculous, but it's true. Take a look at this Washington Post blog to see how Colbert fared against all candidates in a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.
If nothing else, Colbert's decision to run is a welcome break from the same old stump speeches candidates continue to deliver all over the country.

Preschool vs. NCLB

Is there a chance universal preschool will overtake No Child Left Behind as the key education issue in the campaign? That would contradict all conventional wisdom, but there's a chance. I make the argument here in Politico.

Richard Whitmire

Monday, October 22, 2007

How Thompson's Past Affects His Views on Higher Education

As a young father, Fred Thompson worked his way through college, relying heavily on student loans. He has said the experience left him with the lasting belief that the federal government has a role to play in helping students afford college.

But aside from a few anecdotes like that, Mr. Thompson has been largely mum about his positions on higher education since he jumped into the presidential race in September. In the third in The Chronicle's series of profiles of the leading candidates, we sift through Mr. Thompson’s past, including his Senate career, to determine what a Thompson presidency might mean for colleges and universities.

On another front at our Campaign U. blog last week, we wrote about Hillary Rodham Clinton's flip flop on the federal guaranteed-loan program. First, she said she supported competition between the federal government’s direct-lending program and the Federal Family Education Loan Program, also known as FFELP.

But when Senator Clinton later unveiled her higher-education platform, she called for killing FFELP. Her plan would use the savings generated by abolishing the program to help finance an $8-billion expansion of aid to student and colleges.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Obama's "in your face" move in California

(Obama works the crowd in LA Saturday)

Maybe Latino women voters, who make up a huge chunk of California's Deomcratic constituency, didn't pay enough notice last week when Barack Obama said student aid should be available to the children of illegal immigrants.

So Saturday he made his point again a bit more vividly.

Obama visited LA's Garfield High School -- the setting for the famous movie "Stand And Deliver" in which insprining teacher Jamie Escalante pushes Latino kids to test success in math -- and delivered an even more pointed critique of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's college aid veto.

"Instead of driving thousands of children who were on the right path into the shadows, we need to give those who play by the rules the opportunity to succeed," the LA Times reported he said in his speech.

This post also appears on my education blog Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: LA Times)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Financial Aid Linked to Careers

Republican Mitt Romney, at a campaign stop Wednesday in Iowa, proposed linking the amount of financial aid for students to the careers they're seeking. You can read the Associated Press story here.

According to the AP account, Romney said he liked the idea of linking the amount of financial aid with the "contributions" students will make to society. However, he provided no details on which career paths would be linked to greater financial aid and whose contributions would count more than others.

In fact, Romney, like many other candidates, has been pretty short on details in general about his education plans. The "Issue Watch" on education on his campaign web page, which provides some quotes and video, provides virtually no information on how he would reform schools.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

John Edwards and No Child Left Behind

There is a refreshing depth to Edwards' positions on No Child Left Behind. He certainly does much better than Bill Richardson's get-rid-of-it view, which has to be the stupidest campaign plank ever from such a demonstrably smart man. Edwards joins the multitudes in supporting changes that would allow states to track the growth of students over time. He also likes the proposal in the George Miller draft that would make it easier for schools that just have a few failings in a few categories to make adequate yearly progress. I remain among those who think this is a bad idea, since it weakens the law's focus on disadvantaged children, but if they don't do something like that the law is going soon to look ridiculous to taxpayers and voters, who will wonder why nearly every school in their town has missed the federal targets. It is not good for a law to look ridiculous, so Edwards is likely smarter than I am on that issue.
My main complaint with his NCLB position is his stand on testing, which I think betrays a lack of understanding of what good teachers do. He is not alone in this. I have yet to find a presidential candidate who understands, or is willing to discuss, this point, so I can't see this as a major Edwards flaw. None of us is perfect.
Here is what his Web site says about his view on tests under NCLB: "Rather than requiring students to take cheap standardized tests, Edwards believes that we must invest in the development of higher-quality assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills, including open-ended essays, oral examinations, and projects and experiments."
Sounds great, doesn't it? So why have so many states shied away from such tests? Why has the state of Maryland just decided to end its use of written answers to questions---the brief constructed responses?
The answer is that such tests are very expensive, very slow to grade and don't give you any important information that you cannot get from multiple choice exams. In addition, attempts to write such exams for ALL children---as opposed to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams written for high schoolers who choose to take a challenging course--usually fail, because the test makers find they have to dumb down the process or graders will go made, and they will be reporting May's scores the following February. Such tests also cost millions of extra dollars that would be better spent raising teacher salaries.
That is what happened with Maryland's BCRs---they came out slow and stupid and expensive and led to bad teaching. Maryland was smart to get rid of them.
It may sound odd, but it is much better to make do with short, cheap standardized tests. They give you enough to know how a student, and a school, are doing in general, and can provide some quick clues to a kid's weaknesses. All that fine teaching on critical thinking will come if the student has a good teacher, and the cheap tests can show which teachers are good at raising achievement levels and which are not. Those are also the teachers who are most likely to be teaching those thinking skills that Edwards rightly praises. But until we get to high school and can give students tests of the quality of AP and IB, those good teachers do not need a standardized critical thinking test to help them. They prefer a cheap, quick multiple-choice test, something they can get out of the way, so they can continue their imaginative classroom work.
The cheap tests will help identify teachers who are not so good, and need help, and also identify those teachers whose students do well on the cheap tests and thus are most likely to be learning the thinking skills we all want our children to have. That certainly has been my experience, watching hundreds of teachers in action over the last 25 years. But if anyone can point me to a teacher who managed to raise scores significantly on those cheap tests without cheating, and yet did NOT teach those deeper skills, I would like to hear about it, so I can talk to the teacher and do a story. In my experience, teachers who raise achievement on cheap tests are very good teachers. They are just getting started. Their success on those tests is as closely tied to their success in teaching critical thinking as long spring walks are entwined with young love. Edwards should stop asking for tests that won't work, and emphasize his many other ideas that have merit.

Monday, October 15, 2007

John Edwards' smart school ideas

I apologize for my long absence and thank the smart posters who have been looking at Edwards recently. His stumbles on rural school statistics are embarrassing, but he remains the most intelligent candidate in the field when talking about how to improve schools. That does not mean that all of his proposals make sense. Like every national politician, he has to cater to some interest groups for whom good policies spell reduced influence. But as he did four years ago, Edwards is staying ahead of the pack, at least when it comes to thinking about education.
What impresses me most about the proposals he made in Des Moines last month is his take on the merit pay issue. The fact that he addresses it at all wins points with me. Some candidates think (wrongly) that the teachers unions just won't stand for merit pay, and so shy away. Edwards goes one very big step further by recognizing that the sort of individual rewards that some candidates support are unlikely to work in a well run school. In a poorly run school, it may make sense to reward your best teachers with some extra money to persuade them to stick around until somebody can find a good principal to match their good efforts with good support. But if a school is really going to soar, and raise the achievement level of nearly every child, it needs a team spirit, and Edwards' proposal recognizes that.
He wants to raise pay for teachers in succcessful (note that very important word) high-poverty schools by up to $15,000 a year. The first $5,000 would be for veteran teachers who mentored new teachers. This is fine, although his press release does not make it clear that this money would only go to such mentors in schools that have shown success. The second $5,000 would go to teachers who earned their National Board certification. This is also okay, since all teachers have a shot at the year-long certification process, but again the press release does not specify if the school would have to reach a certain level for them to get the money.
The impressive part of this merit pay plan comes with the third $5,000, which would go to every single teacher in "high poverty schools with high academic performance, good student behavior, and high parent satisfaction." There are a few schools like that in nearly every big city in America right now. Most of them are small charters. They don't get that much attention, but that extra money would help them recruit more good teachers and inspire more organizations to create such schools, or persuade public school systems to find smart, tough principals willing to create such schools as part of their districts.
It is a smart idea that should win support from many union members, since a team approach is what unionism is all about. Republicans so far are too stuck on the individualized approach--more money for every teacher whose students do well---to see that in the inner city, the every- teacher-for-herself approach doesn't work well. But the GOP folk are also openly admiring of the schools that have shown the power of the team, so I wait for them to get smart like Edwards and move in that same direction.

Clinton launches new radio ad

Hillary Clinton's second radio ad in South Carolina builds on her first, emphasizing her concern about education. In the first ad, she noted the state's rural, economically depressed interstate-associated "Corridor of Shame." This time, she harks to familiar themes of universal pre-Kindergarten, college affordability and access. To read more, check the AP story here in the NYT.

~ Cathy

Friday, October 12, 2007

Clinton unveils higher ed affordability plan

Thursday Hillary Clinton unveiled an ambitious $8 billion plan to improve higher education affordability and push college accountability.
Speaking in New Hampshire, she harked to access, a theme she has turned to throughout her campaign. Her Web site contains details of the plan here.
The heart of the plan is an expansion of the Hope tax credit to $3,500, which includes a provision for what was dubbed "advanceability." In addition to increasing the credit from $1,650, she calls for making the first $1,000 in tuition costs fully deductible. The new credit will be partially refundable and will be "advanceable" so families can receive the tax credit when their tuition bills are due.
She took on Pell grants, too, saying she wants to adjust them annually so they keep pace with college costs. She wants colleges to establish multi-year tuition rates so families can better plan education costs, rather than waiting year to year to find out how much more they must shell out or borrow.
The plan includes $500 million in incentive grants to help community colleges make sure students complete degrees; the money also goes toward two-year/four-year institution partnerships to increase graduation rates and promote smooth transfers.
There is $250 million to help improve graduation rates from four-year colleges, too.
Worker training is addressed with $250 million for on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.
Americorps also receives a boost in the Clinton proposal. She wants to double the education award associated with the two-year public service program, increasing it to $10,000.
For those tired of filling out FAFSA forms, whether online or in print, Clinton proposes a simpler way to apply for federal assistance: checking a box on the income tax return.
The accountability portion, which targets the institutions themselves, includes three components:
An online college cost calculator so people can figure out the amount of aid a student likely will receive, and how much he or she must pay with other funds, for the institution the student wants to attend.
A graduation and graduate-employment rate index, maintained by the Department of Education, for all colleges and universities. The employment index would include information on earnings, as well.
Multi-year tuition projections so students will know from the freshman year on how much they must pay over the course of their education at that institution.
According to her Web site, the massive plan won't increase the deficit. Clinton calls for eliminating the guaranteed student loan program and using a portion of the proceeds expected from freezing the estate tax at $7 million per couple.
There is sure to be skeptical response to the plan, but it touches almost all the higher education student constituencies, with the exception of graduate students.
So we're looking at universal pre-Kindergarten and more affordable and accessible higher education. Now we'll see what she proposes for the students in the middle.
~ Cathy Grimes

Education roundup

Some of the news laid out in this Associated Press story by Holly Ramer is noted elsewhere on Education Election by our bloggers, but this is a good summary. Interesting to note the turn toward education issues among the Democrats. Especially interesting is the boost in tax credits for higher education proposed by Clinton. Again, she's targeting middle-income voters who could use the help both there and from universal preschool.

Richard Whitmire

Mitt Romney and the Mormon Faith

I'm Michele McNeil, a state policy reporter for Education Week, and I'll be tracking and discussing Republican Mitt Romney's education ideas as the presidential race continues. This is good timing for my first blog entry as I've just returned from an assignment in Utah for a story about school vouchers, where I learned about how the Mormon faith influences opinions and decisions about public schools. I think this might be instructive as we monitor the education views of Romney, who is a Mormon.

On a visit to the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City this week, I learned that Mormons, who prize the notion of family, are big supporters of public schools and only operate their own private schools in areas of the world where public education is lacking. Tonga was one example a tour guide gave me. It's worth noting, however, that in Utah, high school students who are Mormons get an hour a day of "release time" for religious instruction. Mormons are also fierce supporters of "free agency", or studying issues and making their own choices.

The two beliefs—support for public schools and freedom of choice—certainly must influence Romney. And, these beliefs create tension in the current debate over school vouchers, which often pits the ideas of public school against parental choices. It's a very hot topic in Utah, which has a referendum on the November ballot asking voters to keep, or throw out, a universal voucher program. It's also an issue for Romney, who has said he supports vouchers programs.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Richardson's plan stresses preschool, teacher quality

Gov. Bill Richardson on Thursday laid out his plan for education during a speech at a New Hampshire high school.
Richardson said he would cut $57 billion in defense spending and put $60 billion into education instead.
Part of those funds would pay for universal preschool program for 4-year-olds, he said. Richardson has started to do that in New Mexico. He spearheaded a pilot program in 2005. That program has grown slightly over the last few years, though the $14 million he got this year still will only serve about 14 percent of the 26,000 4-year-old kids in the state.
Richardson's other proposal, setting an average starting salary for teachers at $40,000, is another attempt to take a state program to Washington. During his time as governor, the state implemented a three-tier licensure program that starts teachers at $30,000, but bumps them to a minimum $40,000 after three years and a pretty extensive evaluation process. Teachers with master's degrees and six years can earn $50,000.
Richardson said he would also hire 100,000 new math and science teachers.
He said once again that he wants to get rid of NCLB and again used his stance to distance himself from his opponents. "Some say fix it, others say tweak it. Senator Clinton says reform it," Richardson said. "I also have two words for No Child Left Behind: Scrap it. Scrap it. End it."
For more about his speech read this story.

Richardson Ed Plan Coming Soon

Gov. Bill Richardson has said he will unveil his education plan today at a Manchester, N.H., high school. According to reports, the plan will include a move to give college students free tuition in exchange for public service.
The Democratic presidential candidate said students could earn two years of college tuition for every year of serving in organizations like the Peace Corp or Teach for America. For more about the preliminaries, see this AP story.
No other details about the plan were released, though Richardson has already said that NCLB should be scrapped. So far, he hasn't mentioned an alternative. Stay tuned.

Giuliani: Education is the key

What's the biggest impediment to the country's long-term economic success? The K-12 education system, says GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani.

“I’d like to point out that I think the biggest economic problem we face long term is our education — our K-12 education,” Giuliani said near the close of Tuesday's Michigan debate on the economy. “If we can reform that and change it around choice, I think the sky’s the limit for the United States.” (Thanks to Education Daily for catching the quote.)

Giuliani's key reform for all that ails education is school choice. Expanding options for parents is one of his campaign's "12 commitments." As he said recently in a California campaign stop, "We’re going to take the decision-making and we’re going to put it in the hands of the people who really know the children, really love the children, really care about the children, more than anyone else: the parents."

To hear Giuliani's June comments about how he wants to "save" American public education with choice, click here.

(Photo credit: St. Petersburg Times)

Fred Thompson on NCLB, and an introduction

I'm Dakarai Aarons, an education reporter at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, and I will be writing about former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's positions on education as the campaign continues.

Education Week's David Hoff includes a presidential scorecard among his latest blogs on the No Child Left Behind law, currently up for Congressional reauthorization.

He notes that both Thompson, a Republican, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, have called for the elimination of NCLB, but for different reasons.

Hoff says: "Richardson is looking for the support of teachers' unions and other liberals who see the law as unworkable. Thompson is trying to reach the conservatives who see NCLB as an unnecessary intrusion on local decisions.

At the beginning of the year, Washington conventional wisdom said presidential politics would eventually interfere with NCLB reauthorization. As of now, it looks as the presidential field is reflecting the political alignment in Congress. We'll have to wait and see what happens once the field starts to narrow."

If you spot Thompson tidbits, shoot me a note at and let me know.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Obama: Let illlegals get aid for college

On Tuesday, Barack Obama called on California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger not to veto a bill that would make illegal immigrants who graduate high school eligible for college aid.

Schwarzenegger has vetoed a similar measure once before. Obama co-sponsored a a bill to allow illegals to get college aid when he was in the Illinois legislature.

Also check out this story from a Georgia-based writer which makes a passing reference to Obama's education positions but compares the Democratic senator to Ronald Reagan.

This post also appears on my education blog Get on the Bus.

(Image credit: AP)

Ed funding talk on Thursday?

A Washington Post A-1 story today reports Hillary Clinton will discuss a new education funding formula during a campaign stop Thursday in New Hampshire. You can read the story here.
Education was not one of the main topics of the interview, but may well be a key element of Clinton campaign stories Thursday. Stay tuned.
FYI, if you haven't read the Chronicle of Higher Ed Clinton profile, it is worth a look. The story gives good perspective and education threads through the whole.

~ Cathy Grimes

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is that a fact?

John Edwards frequently talks about the need to improve rural schools. But are they as bad as he says they are?

Hillary Clinton signals her support for school accountability by talking about her key role in bringing Arkansas schools out of the dark ages in the 1980s. Does she overstate her case?

Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times' new web site aimed at keeping the candidates honest, is starting to tackle education issues. The first forays focused on Edwards and Clinton. Take a peek at whether they tell the truth while on the stump.

How Clinton's College Years Shaped Her and Her Policies

As a college student in the 1960’s, Hillary Rodham Clinton developed a passion for social issues that continues to inform her approach to higher education.

In the second of our series of profiles of the leading presidential candidates, The Chronicle explores Ms. Clinton’s transformation from Goldwater Girl to antiwar Democrat and traces her emergence as a skilled negotiator. We also examine her Senate record, focusing on her twin passions of expanding college access to nontraditional students and of making student loans more borrower-friendly.

Our Campaign U. blog also contains the transcript of a Chronicle Q&A with Ms. Clinton about how her college experiences shaped her as a candidate and about her views on student-aid and other higher-education policies.

Another story that appears in our issue this week also takes a look at the changing role of presidential advisers and what scholars stand to gain and lose when they agree to help a candidate.

NCLB politics

Just because NCLB hasn't emerged as a critical campaign issue doesn't mean the election won't have a big impact on President Bush's 'legacy' law. This article by Ledyard King from Gannett News Service lays out what might happen to the law, depending on who ends up winning.

Writes King: "If the next president is a Democrat, it's likelier the accountability-centered framework of No Child will remain but with perhaps less testing and more money for smaller classes and teacher retraining, said Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank."

The Republicans are less predictable. "That's because the party is divided between the conservative base that makes up the majority of primary voters and wants state and local control of schools, and business interests that provide most of the campaign funding and believe No Child should not only be renewed but strengthened. "

King then walks us through what the Republicans have said to date.

Richard Whitmire

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Obama loses AFT, gets Chicago teachers

Looks like while EWA was putting me to work in Milwaukee Chicago teachers endorsed Barack Obama, according to Alexander Russo at This Week in Education. This is on the heels of the national AFT's decision to endorse Hillary Clinton earlier in the day.

We're still waiting on the NEA.

This post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sen. Richardson?

The big political news in New Mexico today is the announcement that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) will retire in 2008. Domenici is an institution in New Mexico and has garnered millions of dollars for various federal programs in the state, namely Los Alamos National Laboratory, since he was first elected in 1972.
Lately, though, his legacy has been somewhat tarnished because of his support of the Iraq war and his possible involvement in the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. Add to that failing health, and Domenici's day's were numbered. For anybody who's interested in Domenici, see this New Mexico blogger.
What does this have to do with education or the presidential election?
In the wake of the announcement, several names have been bantered about to replace Domenici. High on that list is Gov. Bill Richardson. Richardson's folks have already said he's running for president and isn't interested in the Senate seat. But with Domenici gone and Richardson's approval rating in New Mexico hovering upward of 70 percent, some think he'd be a shoe-in.
Meanwhile, Richardson continues to get attention for being the only Democratic candidate to call for the removal of all troops from Iraq, and now he is criticizing other Dems for not doing so.
Richardson started off strong when it came to education. Unfortunately, he's been somewhat mum on the subject lately. For anyone who's interested in a Richardson education refresher, you can see his main points here.

AFT gives nod to Clinton

After seven months of what its officials call "a deliberative process" the American Federation of Teachers on Wednesday (Oct. 3) endorsed Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. The official press release calls her the strongest leader to advance education causes and the needs of American families.
Clinton participated in Q&A sessions sessions with AFT leaders and members. She has spoken out in support of universal pre-Kindergarten education, better pay and support for teachers and recognition of student achievement beyond test scores. She also advocates amending No Child Left Behind. Officials cite her past experience with education reform and her bold plans for improving education.
The endorsement is the latest in a string of union nods for Clinton. AFT boasts 1.4 million members. In addition to the AFT endorsement, Clinton also was endorsed by the New York State United Teachers, the state's AFT affiliate.
~Cathy Grimes

'Baby Bonds' for College, the Youth Vote, and More

Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed a plan last Friday to give every child born in the United States a $5,000 “baby bond” that could be used to pay for college or for a buying a house.

Rudolph W. Giuliani already has moved in to attack the idea. As he made the rounds of the diners of New Hampshire yesterday, the former mayor criticized Ms. Clinton for borrowing from George McGovern's failed playbook when she offered up the college-savings proposal, according to The New York Times's political blog.

In other college-related news reported at Campaign U. this week, the U.S. Census Bureau released a "special edition" fact sheet on voting statistics.

The numbers showed that fewer than half of U.S. citizens ages 18 to 24 voted in the last presidential election while nearly three-quarters of those ages 55 and older did. The good news about the youth vote is that the 47 percent rate of voting among the 18-to-24 age group in 2004 represented an increase of 11 percentage points over the previous presidential election, in 2000.

A college degree also makes a big difference in whether a citizen is likely to go to the polls.

Other items from The Chronicle blog that may be of interest include a discussion of Democratic candidates' stances on how to respond to the recent controversy that has mired the student-loan industry. Ms. Clinton, for instance, has not called for ending the Federal Family Education Loan program, even though her husband is credited with creating direct lending.

Late last week, Barack Obama also outlined a plan that he said would narrow disparities in the nation's criminal-justice system. Among the proposals he put forward in a speech at Howard University, Mr. Obama advocated recruiting more public defenders by forgiving the student loans of people who go into the profession.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Anyone looking for evidence that universal preschool is likely to play a significant role in the '08 elections can find it in this comprehensive story on preschool legislation just turned in by Linda Jacobson in Education Week. Three bills pushing up the federal role in preschool are pending before Congress, one of them Hillary Clinton's Ready to Learn Act.

On the campaign trail Clinton talks about building a $10 billion universal preschool program for four-year-olds. Her legislation, however, includes no dollar figure -- only that it would target families below 200 percent of poverty and therefore not eligible for Head Start.

(Hmmm, you're thinking ... sounds like Women with Needs. Exactly, which makes this a glimpse into a formula that's proving successful for her.)

Any federal preschool program is most likely to help those in-between families (too well-off for Head Start, too poor for a quality private preschool -- a group of voters both sides can win over) which is why it's reasonable to assume this is an issue with political legs. To date, we've only heard preschool talk from the Democrats, but it may not be long before this bubbles up from the other side...

Richard Whitmire

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The kids love Obama

Barack Obama continues to be a hit with the college set, speaking last week to an excitable crowd of 24,000 at New York University.

Obama again delighted the crowd by ripping the cost of college in a speech that touched on Iraq and health care too.

In other campaign news, Obama and John Edwards said in last week's New Hampshire debate that they would be comfortable reading the book "King and King," which has same-sex relationships as a theme, to their young children and would support its use as part of a school curriculum. Hillary Clinton also gave less enthusiastic support for the book, the subject of a controversy when a second grade techer read it to her class in Massachucetts.

The three were criticized by Mitt Romney, who in a statement said he opposed the use of such a book in school.

This post also appears on my education blog, Get on the Bus .

(Image Credit: Washington Square News)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

And the Loser Is ...

The 16 Dartmouth students who participated in the focus group mentioned in an earlier post seemed to have come to a stronger conclusion about who did NOT win last night's Democratic debate than who did.

There was a unanimous decision, according to Brian McMillan, one of the participants.

“We’re Barack Obama fans, but he didn’t really bring it,” the Dartmouth senior says.

Mr. McMillan says the group felt Senator Obama’s charisma didn’t shine through in the debate, and the students wanted to hear more about his specific policy plans.

For more on what the students discussed, here's a link to our post at Campaign U.

Romney: Dems out of Touch with America

Mitt Romney cares about America's children. Or at least about what they read in second grade. His reaction to the Democratic debate in New Hampshire includes the following:

"Last night's debate was just the latest example of how out of touch the Democratic presidential candidates are with the American people. Not one candidate was uncomfortable with young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade. This is a subject that should be left to parents, not public school teachers. We need to strengthen our families by passing a federal marriage amendment and also insisting on marriage before having children. Change in Washington requires Democrats with the courage to stand-up to their ultra liberal base and do what's right for our children."

John Edwards: Restoring The Promise of America's Schools

It's not quite as catchy as No Child Left Behind, but John Edwards released his education platform last week and armed it with four catch phrases instead of one -- the umbrella of "Restoring the Promise of America's Schools" and these subtitles:
1. Preparing Every Child to Succeed 2. An Excellent Teacher in Every Classroom 3. Making Every School an Outstanding School.
Maybe those don't roll off the tongue, but at least he's making a stand on education...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dartmouth students to choose Democratic nominee ...

... at least in terms of tonight's debate on their campus (on MSNBC). According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 16 students will declare themselves undecided voters and will make a decision on who they would vote for based on debate answers. Associate professor Ronald G. Shaiko, who teaches government, recruited them for a focus group. The students will use a self-created scorecard to rate the candidates. The Chron of Higher Ed promises to post the results tomorrow.

~ Cathy Grimes

Will preschool outpull NCLB?

In some ways reporters are no different from football players: We play as we practice. And all the practice leading up to the '08 campaign has focused on NCLB. Will the candidates embrace it or reject it?
But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong and the key education issue for '08 turns out to be universal preschool, not NCLB?
Based on what's happening in the states, with a surge in pre-K spending ($528 million in new money over the past year, according to Pre-K Now), there are signs that might be happening. The group said seven states now offer forms of pre-K for all children. And the candidates, at least the Democrats, appear a lot more eager to talk about pre-K than NCLB.
Pictured above is Berkeley professor David Kirp, author of the just released Sandbox Investment and Libby Doggett, who runs Pre-K Now. (Full disclosure: Kirp and I discussed his book Tuesday before a group pulled together by Pew.)
While the pre-K movement is on a roll there are hazards ahead as the issue hits the political grinder. The Democrats are embracing universal preschool but they risk overpromising. High quality preschool doesn't come cheap. Stretching programs to reach the most voters shrinks quality, which in turn shrinks the gains made by children (think Florida here).
Republicans have their own risks. By remaining quiet on what could be the big education/political issue they risk losing on an issue that polls indicate appeals to their base. And how long can Republicans ignore the corporate leaders backing universal preschool?
Perfect time to unleash a cliche: This bears watching.
Richard Whitmire

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hillary wows a crowd in Charlottesville, Va.

Hillary Clinton had a sit-down chat with author John Grisham and a full house fund-raiser held at Charlottesville's Paramount Theatre Sunday. She and Grisham had a wide-ranging discussion, and she fielded questions from the audience, on all the usual topics, including education. The University of Virginia's newpaper noted she voiced support for affordable college and universal Pre-K (a hot topic in Virginia these days with the governor promoting an expansion of the state's Preschool Initiative, widening its reach). Part of her comment on college accessibility was caught on video: "We need to open the doors to colleges and great institutions like U. Va. to as many students from as many diverse backgrounds as possible." Sources said she also spoke briefly about NCLB, noting it needs fixing.

Hillary on the air in SC

According to an AP story today by Meg Kinnard, Hillary Clinton's campaign will launch its first radio ad in South Carolina, and she harks to education in the short spot. Her message includes a reference to the state's poor rural school districts along Interstate 95, dubbed the Corridor of Shame and chronicled in a documentary of the same name. In her ad, Clinton says children in those crumbling schools are "invisible to this president," referring to Bush.

Giuliani's Tough-Guy Record on Higher Education

Rudolph W. Giuliani hasn’t said much yet about his campaign plans for higher education, but the Republican does have a controversial record on the issue.

In the first of our series of profiles of the leading presidential candidates, The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a look at Mr. Giuliani’s higher-education record as mayor. We also highlight his undergraduate experiences (he wrote political columns that, among other things, criticized Barry Goldwater) and summarize his platform positions that do mention postsecondary education.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani worked to end open enrollment and raise admissions standards at New York City’s public university system, the City University of New York. To his supporters, his actions represented a bold move that has improved CUNY’s rigor. To his critics, Mr. Giuliani’s approach was bullheaded and threatened to undermine the urban university’s historic mission to educate all New Yorkers.

Both his supporters and his critics say Mr. Giuliani’s record on CUNY shows how he aggressively pursues his convictions, often without regard for public opinion, and illustrates the kind of leadership style — and heated debate — that Mr. Giuliani might bring to the White House if he were elected.

On another front, John Edwards released a plan on Friday to reform elementary and secondary education. It included a proposal to create a "West Point for teachers."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Clinton does Sunday morning news shows, but doesn't talk education

Hillary Clinton made the rounds of the morning news shows today – spanning the stations but staying on message. Unfortunately, education was not among the issues she discussed. She stuck to Iraq, defense, campaign finance and health care.
But she is among the candidates on the Yahoo/Slate/Huffington Post do-it-yourself debate, which can be found here.
You pick a candidate, then pick an issue. Then you get moderator Charlie Rose and your candidate.
Here are the highlights of Clinton on education in the Democratic mash-up.
She said presidential debates have not paid enough attention to education, treating it as an afterthought. She harked to a “vigorous agenda,” then hit the high notes she raises at each campaign stop: Universal Pre-Kindergarten; fixing No Child Left Behind, which she called an unfunded mandate; affordable college and career/technical training.
She also said the nation must “take a hard look at what the role of the family is and of society” in education. Citizens should ask if education in 2007 is working. Clinton noted that classrooms have not changed much over the years, with the exception of adding computers and other technology. They still contain desks, chairs, writing boards, books. The basic elements of instruction are the same. She wants people to ask, how do we better prepare children for what they will face once they graduate.
Rose followed up her comments, asking why education has not come along as fast as other societal changes. Clinton quickly responded that there are several reasons, but the key factor is one of the main reasons people read education stories: “One reason is everyone has gone through it and each person has opinions on it. Everyone is an expert on education because we went to school.” She said the nation has not reached a consensus on education that reflects today’s reality.
Charlie fielded one “caller” question, from Jonathan Kozol, who asked about testing. Clinton said she believes in accountability, harking to her work on Arkansas’ education reform, but went on with the sound bite of the evening: “I do think there is a place for testing but we should not look at our children as though they are little walking tests.” (Almost as good as the Darth Vader comment during the Manhattan Town Hall confab).
She said schools should offer a “broad, rich curriculum,” but offered no details on what that curriculum should include. Also little of substance regarding how to fix NCLB.
The Dem candidates are set to spar again Wednesday evening, Sept. 26, on MSNBC. Check your local listing for the time. I'll watch and see what Clinton says about education and share it with you.
~ Cathy Grimes

Friday, September 21, 2007

Columbia Students for Clinton, Obama ... and Romney (and maybe Giuliani)

Are students at New York's Columbia University leading the way in the 2008 race -- or just reflecting what the rest of the country is thinking?

So far, according to this article in today's Columbia Spectator, the student newspaper, Columbia students have formed three, maybe four, "Students For ..." groups: You got your Students for Hillary Clinton, your Students for Barack Obama ... and your Students for Mitt Romney. Who knew the kids in Morningside Heights had Mitt in mind?
You also got your Students for Rudy Giuliani -- maybe. As the article notes, that group "could not be reached for comment, and the College Republicans did not respond to requests for comment."
Already, Romney's machine is headed to Upper Broadway ... the story notes that Romney son Craig (pictured) will headline an Oct. 2 meet-and-greet.
Note to Craig: If the College Republicans don't feed you, there's a great pizza place down the block. Make that two.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back to the Future with McCain and Keyes

And my gratitude goes to Greg Toppo for linking to our item about Mitt Romney so I don't have to. ...

In addition to paging through the former governor's report, we also dug through our archives to find a Q&A on higher education we conducted with the presidential candidates of 2000, two of whom are back at it again for 2008.

In that 2000 exchange, John McCain advocated establishing tax-deferred family savings accounts that could be used for higher-education expenses and said he would encourage colleges that have put in place admissions policies that help economically disadvantaged students.

He also emphasized the importance of preparing students for college as he pitched school vouchers and teacher-competency standards.

And then there is Alan Keyes. In 2000, the one-time president of Alabama A&M University told us that the U.S. Department of Education should be abolished and the federal government should prohibit preferential treatment of people by race in higher education. He also argued that direct federal grants to institutions are “dangerous,” often involving “expensive and ideological regulations.”

You can look here for more coverage of higher education and the 2008 candidates, including a link to a study that shows that text messaging may be an effective approach to getting out the youth vote and a Q&A with a political science professor in Florida about that state's primary debacle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Romney's manifesto -- they read it so we don't have to

My undying gratitude to the Chronicle of Higher Education for reading Mitt Romney's new, 67-page policy booklet, titled Strategy for a Stronger America. As the Chronicle notes, Romney on Tuesday laid out policy pronouncements on "terrorism, energy independence, and child predators," but was a bit light on education.

"Romney calls for strengthening education, and, in particular, emphasizing math and science education, in order to 'ensure American workers have the intellectual capital and skills to compete in the 21st-century economy,'" the Chronicle says.

"He also says federal worker-retraining programs should be consolidated and restructured in order to better serve those seeking to learn new skills."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New York City wins Broad prize

Mayor Bloomberg took a big gamble in seizing control of New York's schools, and now the payoff matches the gamble -- the Broad award for school reform, accepted today.
Said the Mayor: Today's result demonstrates that New York City's school reforms are raising achievement among our students, particularly minority students, to levels that weren't considered possible just a few years ago, and this award recognizes the hard work of the teachers, students and parents and acknowledges that we are heading in the right direction.
Bloomberg has said he wants to held accountable for changing the school culture there. Should he decide to dive into the '08 race, this would give his reforms credibility. It certainly would raise the profile of education issues in the race.
Richard Whitmire