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

Monday, September 17, 2007

Democrats for Education Reform

The surprise star at last night's launch of the Democrats For Education Reform was Michelle Rhee, the new DC schools chancellor. With her humor and spunk very much intact in spite of smacking repeatedly against what may be the worst-run school central office in the entire country, Rhee regaled a crowd of about 100 national education reformers at the Hotel Washington across from the U.S. Treasury Department with fresh stories from close quarters bureaucratic combat.
One example: A DC schools bureaucrat, whose carelessness led to two special education students being assigned to expensive private providers (cost to DC: roughly $500,000 a year) nearly refused to come see Rhee. "I have to check with my supervisor."
When the bureaucrat finally arrived and was told of the expense she had inflicted on the school budget she responded, "You need to understand I am very, very busy. A few things fall between the cracks."
So what do these DC school war stories have to do with the '08 race?
With the Democratic front runners courting the liberal-liberals who are the big players in the primaries, it's easy to overlook the basics of educating kids from low-income schools, says former reporter and author Joe Williams ("Cheating our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education"), who now runs the organization.
It's time, said Williams last night, "to stand up for the little guy again" (as in, stand up to the National Education Association). In primary season, that's a tall order for Democrats. Who's going to spurn the most reliable liberal foot soldiers to be found?
The message last night, from Rhee and Chicago Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., was in-your-face civil rights rhetoric: "Children are deserving of a more perfect education," said Jackson. To him, charters are the bright option: "We need more competition in the system."
That's a message, of course, that would be hotly disputed by the NEA, which would argue that less testing and more money spent to reduce class size is the way to go, not birthing more charters and attacking union rules.
Williams and the DFER have their work cut out for them during the primaries, but the general election brings them brighter hope, right? Right?
Richard Whitmire

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Obama: Give teachers more and extra pay

A sharp-eyed reader at my education blog, Get on the Bus, pointed me to this clip in which Charlie Rose asks Barack Obama for his thoughts on education that is part of a mashup on all of the candidates' positions (see previous item) on a variety of issues.

In the clip, Obama calls No Child Left Behind "false advertising," saying the U.S. Education system does well for some but not for all.

Obama goes on to say he favors bonuses for those willing to teach math and science or in inner city and rural schools. He talks up an impending teacher shortage and the need to attact new people to the profession. To do that, he says we'll have to pay them more, offer them more professional deveopment and rely on their judgement to set standards. He also says he favors universal early childhood education.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Candidate mashup

The debates and the candidates might not be paying much attention to education, but that doesn't mean the public isn't. Slate magazine, Yahoo! News and the Huffington Post joined forces to put on the first online presidential candidate mashup -- involving the Democratic ones. And one of the top three topics was education (along with the Iraq War and health care, natch).

You can watch clips of what the candidates said at Yahoo! News. You can also read a Slate synopsis of the candidates' positions on education before the mashup.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Giuliani's "spotted record"

Hizzoner didn't achieve nearly what he wanted to when it came to education, the LA Times reports this morning. Giuliani pledged to fix New York's troubled schools, the Times says, yet the district endured eight years of chaos during his term.
"He left behind an expired union contract, an army of angry teachers and a school system that by his own admission was still delivering inferior educations to hundreds of thousands of students."

The Times quotes several of Giuliani's opponents and supporters, who generally reach the same conclusion: That his combative style worked against his efforts for school reform. To read the full report, click here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Candidates and Higher Education

Hi everyone,

My name is Sara Hebel, and I am coordinating the 2008 election coverage for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I've agreed to occasionally cross post some items from our new blog, Campaign U.

As we start up this week, we've got a variety of items about the candidates and higher education.

One of our entries looks at some of Fred Thompson's recent comments related to higher education. As has been noted here already, the latest entrant to the 2008 race has expressed support for arming more people on college campuses. Our post links to his ABC News Radio commentary about that and about other topics, including his lament about "political correctness" at colleges and his desire for more academic programs about military history.

We've also pointed to a few indications that higher education may be developing a crush, so to speak, on Barack Obama. (So far, for instance, he's raked in more money than any other candidate from college employees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Our election page includes a rundown of the key higher-education stances of all of the presidential candidates.

I look forward to contributing to the conversation here.

Mayor Bloomberg on NCLB

Okay, The Mayor hasn't exactly declared, but he's saying more about education than most of the candidates. And what he has to say is rooted in hands-on reform rather than hypothetical policy tweaking. So that makes him newsworthy to us.

Here's The Mayor in today's Washington Post discussing No Child Left Behind. At first glance the words sound uncontroversial, but this issue of the federal government possibly stepping in to crack the whip on inequitable distribution of teachers is likely to prove a big deal:

No factor in a school matters more to the academic success of children than the quality of the teachers and principal. To close the achievement gap, we must close the teacher-quality gap. Too often, it's the least qualified and least experienced who teach poor and minority children.
First, we must require that states and school districts distribute the best teachers equitably across schools. In the past, the federal government has only paid lip service to equitable distribution.
More important, we need to support teachers to help them continuously grow in the profession and increase the supply of excellent teachers in all schools. Last week, Congress took a step in this direction by approving funding for scholarships for excellent undergraduate students who commit to teaching in high-need public schools.
We should also build career ladders that reward teachers for gaining new knowledge and for taking on leadership roles in their schools. We should assist principals through instruction in management and the use of data to help their schools succeed. And teachers and principals who excel deserve a raise. While respecting collective bargaining agreements, we should offer performance pay to hardworking and talented teachers based on fair, proven and objective criteria. When school districts collaborate with local teachers unions, performance pay systems work -- and children benefit.
If we don't treat teachers as valued partners in our public schools, we'll continue to face an unacceptable teacher shortage, and children will pay the price.

Richard Whitmire

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Iowa teachers to Obama: Kill NCLB

Wow, some Iowa educators really seem to hate No Child Left Behind.

At least that's what they told a representative of the Barack Obama campaign who came to hear their concerns.

Inez Tenenbaum, former South Carolina superintendent of education, came to Marshalltown, Iowa, for Obama and according to the Times Republican newspaper, educators from the Marshalltown area unloaded on her about NCLB. One teacher said if NCLB were ever fully funded, as some politicians have urged, it "would be the death of public education."

Meanwhile, on a recent visit to a sweltering 111-year-old school in South Carolina's "corridor of shame," where educators have complained about the inequities in facilities, Obama called for federal aid to upgrade outdated facilities, while at the same time cautioning that money is not always the answer to problems in education, according to a TV report.

And at Huffington Post, Dave Riegel says Obama is trying to have both ways on performance pay.

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

Monday, September 3, 2007

There is a plan somewhere

I'm back after a few weeks devoted to the great state AYP data dump/scramble (not to be confused with the coming state school accreditation data dump, which happens mid-month), the SAT scores release and the beginning of another school year. And we’ve been busy with higher ed issues, as well, including the Virginia Tech independent panel report and repercussions from same. It's been wild and crazy in my neck of the woods.

But, I have not forgotten Sen. Clinton, who has several education bills in play, which may move forward when Congress reconvenes this week. Back to juggling Senate responsibilities with a presidential campaign, an unenviable task.

Clinton recently picked up two major union endorsements, including The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which noted its decision was based in part on her focus on education, which a spokesman called "one of the bread and butter issues" of middle class American voters. (The United Transportation Union also endorsed her last week, for those keeping score).

Pundits and dedicated Washington watchers have been debating whether NCLB is likely to be reauthorized this year. It's almost as much fun as a football pool to guess on the potential for passage in 2007. It still sounds like a long shot given the other pressing issues, including the budget, but anything is possible.

So far, Rep. George Miller has come through, posting a draft reauthorization proposal on the House Education Committee Web site. Watch to see if Sen. Ted Kennedy introduces a Senate counterpart this month. Both have promised changes in terms of flexibility. But Kennedy has three presidential contenders on his committee, and none sounds too keen on championing the law without some serious changes. Not tweaks. Big changes. Clinton is among the trio and has said several times she has concerns about the testing provisions and feels the law is flawed. She also wants better pay for teachers and has been supportive of proposals to focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

Back to Clinton on the Campaign trail. Her husband has been with her in New Hampshire, warming up the crowd and introducing the candidate. In several appearances, he has noted that Clinton has a plan for fixing education. We haven't seen the actual plan yet, but stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'll keep an eye on the various bills with which she is affiliated and listen for comments and reaction on all things ed. As always, if I’m missing something, send a shout out to me at and I’ll make sure we get the news posted.