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.