Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The education picture gets a little clearer

NPR offers its take on the differences between McCain and Obama’s approach to education, along with some details about who is advising the two candidates.

The transcribed article points out that Obama, if elected, would be the first president to require all teacher colleges to be accredited. But with more states allowing alternative licensing programs to combat teacher shortages, it’ll be interesting to see how that idea in particular plays among governors.

How education becomes an '08 issue

David Brooks' column in the New York Times today lays out a logical path: The flat lining of higher education attainment in the United States forecasts future problems in international competitiveness.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Guideposts for attacking Obama on education

Wall Street Journal today offers advice to Sen. McCain on going after Sen. Obama on education. The Illinois senator sends his daughters to a pricey school in Chicago while opposing vouchers for poor children.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another take on that Johnston meeting...

Here's how Flypaper summed up the session with Obama education adviser Mike Johnston.

note: edited to correct link.

Obama education aide meets the press

Over at Education Week's Campaign K-12, David Hoff offers this summary of a meeting today between the national press and one of Obama's top education advisers:

Obama Adviser Touts 'Comprehensive' Education Solutions
From guest blogger David J. Hoff:
Michael Johnston, one of Sen. Barack Obama's
many education advisers, met with several journalists today to discuss the Illinois senator's agenda for schools.
Johnston summed up the Democratic presidential candidate's platform in one word: "comprehensive."
It would have $10 billion for new pre-K initiatives and add $8 billion for K-12 programs, particularly for recruiting, retaining, and rewarding teachers. It also would improve college affordability and access.
As for the No Child Left Behind Act, Johnston repeated what
Obama has said he likes and dislikes about the law. High standards and accountability are good. The level of funding and the quality of assessments aren't. Johnston added that Obama believes a federal accountability system could measure students' reading and math skills while not narrowing the curriculum to those areas.
"It's a false choice," the Denver-area principal said. "There's a way to do both."
When asked to comment on the education agenda that
Sen. John McCain announced last week, Johnston said it isn't, well, comprehensive.
McCain had plenty to say about expanding choice and tutoring, Johnston said, but nothing about pre-K, college financial aid, or how to fix NCLB. "There wasn't anything that addressed the 90 percent of students that are in public schools," Johnston said.

Obama's sister speaks to teachers

While Obama continues his oversees visit, his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, was in Florida talking to teachers on his behalf.

Soetoro-Ng said she remembers her first year teaching when she ended up crying every week.

"There were so many problems, I was teaching in a title one district and over 80 percent of the community lived below the poverty line. And poverty does impact education," she said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GOP Asks Public for Input on Accountability in Education

The Republican national committee is asking for public input as it constructs the party's policy platform.

Among the issues the Republican platform committee is urging online visitors to weigh in on is "accountability in education."

"Republicans will develop a party platform that seeks to improve the American educational system at all levels," party officials declare on their Web page where they then provide visitors a series of questions designed to provoke input.

Among them are: How should government address high tuition expenses? Is there a problem with too much ideological dogmatism in higher education? How should the federal government respond to colleges and universities that insist upon discriminating against the United States military?

Within a week after Republicans unveiled their online platform building project, Democrats announced that they would provide a similar venue for public input.

Obama education coordinator

Russo post identifies (and pictures) Harvard Law grad Danielle Gray as Obama's overseer of education policy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Russo on the political aides...

Over at This Week in Education, Alexander Russo looks at how political aides can step on the message, including the education message. More screw-up opportunities arriving shortly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

McCain's Ed Plan

Sen. John McCain, who just months ago didn't even list "education" on his list of issues on his web site, has finally unveiled his education plan.

In a speech today to the NAACP in Cincinnati, he hit on three big themes: school choice, technology, and teacher quality. (Read the transcript here). Education Week's Alyson Klein is in Cincinnati covering the speech, and I hope to include thoughts from her later. Here are highlights of his plan:

  • On school choice—He wants to expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program from $13 million to $20 million, and allocate $500 million in existing federal funds to build new virtual schools and expand other online offerings for students. He wants to allow tutoring programs to bypass "local bureaucracy" for certification under No Child Left Behind and go straight to the even larger bureaucracy of the federal government for direct certification.

  • On technology—He proposes a $250 million grant program to states who want to further expand online learning opportunities and another $250 million in scholarships for students who want to take advantage of online tutors or virtual schools.

  • On teacher quality—McCain would dedicate 60 percent of the $3 billion under NCLB's Title II to incentive bonuses (not exactly merit pay) for teachers who teach in hard-to-staff schools or subjects, and who are highest achieving (which, to me, means their students make the biggest gains on tests.) He wants to devote 5 percent to recruit teachers who graduate in the top 25 percent of their class, and the remaining 35 percent of Title II money would go to professional development.

Notably, his plan offers very little detail about how he might approach the reauthorization of NCLB. His only specific plan is to open up tutoring programs to federal certification, but beyond that, his plan talks more about the "promise" of NCLB than the specifics. In fact, during his speech—according to the transcript as prepared for delivery—he didn't even mention the words "No Child Left Behind."

(This is cross-posted from my Campaign K-12 blog.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On Funding NCLB, McCain's Advisers Can't Agree

A month ago, John McCain's top education advisor told a group of reporters that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee believes No Child Left Behind is "adequately funded." In fact, she was so clear in her statement that it became the headline for the blog item I wrote summarizing Lisa Graham Keegan's roundtable discussion with reporters.

But in a perplexing turn of events, another advisor said on Meet the Press this weekend that the senator wants to "fully fund" NCLB.

So which is it? Does he want to spend more money on NCLB or not?

One huge difference between the two presidential candidates is spending. Sen. Barack Obama wants to spend an additional $18 billion a year to improve education, while McCain has said he wants to get control of the federal budget by freezing discretionary spending (including on education programs) until the new administration can determine which programs work, and which don't.

Did McCain's advisor, Carly Fiorina, misspeak on Meet the Press when she was rattling off a list of changes the Arizona senator would like to see? Or, is McCain re-thinking his position on funding NCLB?

Stay tuned. Perhaps he'll bring this up at tomorrow's speech before the NAACP.

(This is cross-posted from my Campaign K-12 blog.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

How will Obama change NCLB?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are speculating about the fate of No Child Left Behind come January when a new president is sworn in.

Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of the University of Southern California Rossier School, has some interesting thoughts about what will happen to the law under a McCain presidency and an Obama presidency, and she offers some insight on how education policy is shaped at the national level.

Gallagher also says she’s heard some names swirling around as potential Obama picks for Secretary of Education, including including a few school superintendents from major cities and Stanford University professor and Obama education adviser Linda Darling-Hammond.

How do you think the law will change?

Fun campaign stuff...

This offering from Inside Higher Ed :

You expected serious discussion of higher education on the campaign trail? Sen. Barack Obama is being attacked by some anti-immigration groups for suggesting that more Americans should learn to speak foreign languages. Obama is sticking with his position. Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, is being subjected to online analysis for his statement that the University of Southern California (his wife’s alma mater) is “the University of Spoiled Children.” Some observers think a little university-bashing may be good for the McCain campaign, some at USC aren’t amused, while still others are upset that Cindy McCain is being described as having been a cheerleader at the university when she was actually a “song girl.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama gives his take on education at rally

(Obama speaks at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton, Ohio, Friday)

Here's the good news: Dayton Daily News political reporter Laura Bischoff got a one-on-one interview with Barack Obama following his speech today at Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton.

Now the bad news. She walked in for the meeting and an Obama handler literally held up a stop watch and said, "You have five minutes. Go!"

Five minutes isn't time to cover much ground. This is the second time a DDN reporter has gotten a one-on-one interview with Obama since the campaign began. My colleague Lynn Hulsey got five minutes to ask him questions a few months ago during the primaries.

In both cases, I hopefully slipped a couple education questions to Hulsey and Bischoff. But in both cases, questions about the economy were priority No. 1 and there wasn't time to get much beyond that. I know time is precious to a presidential campaign, but really, five minutes is not being fair.

Thankfully a teacher from Cincinnati bailed me out Friday.

During the queston and answer period after Obama's speech on energy, he called on a woman with an Obama T-shirt who identified herself as a Cincinnati teacher who asked this question:

"What would you do to correct president Bush's 'every child left behind' policy?'"

That brought a roar from the crowd, but also an extended answer about education policy from Obama. Here's what he said:

"It's important to try to be fair. The basic concept of No Child Left Behind was a good one. We should raise our standards so every child succeeds. And I agree with the notion that we should have a qualified teacher in every classroom. We are not competing, the folks here in Dayton, just against kids in Chicago and Miami. You are competing with kids in China and Bangalore.

The problem was in the execution. What the president did was he left the money behind for No Child Left Behind. We are asking schools to do more but not devoting more resources. The second problem is higher standards are measured only by a single high stakes standardized test and that test was administered sort of midway through year. It wasn't measuring progress. That made teachers and administrators worry that they needed to teach to the test because even if they do a good job, it may not show up on the test. That made it more difficult for teachers and less inspiring for students.

Some schools even eliminated art, music and foreign language. You know, I said something other day about foreign language and Republicans jumped on it. Let me be clear. I Absolutely believe immigrants need to learn English. But we also need to learn foreign languages. This is an example of problems we get into when somebody attacks you for telling truth. We should want kids with more knowledge. That is a good thing. I know because I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing.

We need to change how measures of progress works. A standardized test given at the beginning of year would give teachers a tool to know where kids are starting. If they want, they can have another test at the end of year to see how they end up. In the middle, let teachers do what they do best, which is teach. We need to work with teachers to develop other assessment tools to be sure we are making progress.

There are some other things we need to do. We need to invest in early childhood education to close achievement gap. If they start behind they fall further behind as time goes by. We need to pay teachers more and give them more support. We need to expand after school and summer programs so young people have place to do homework and are not on the street getting into trouble. In many cases today, you don't have a choice for one parent to stay home. You have to have two parents working and kids need some place to go with supervision.

We also need to make college affordable. My plan is for a $4,000 tuition credit every year of college in exchange for community or national service by joining the peace corps or teaching in inner city school or joining the service.

Let me say something else. The government can do all kinds of good things. I can fix No Child Left Behind but if parents don't care then it is not going to work. Parents, you need to turn off TV set once in a while and put away the video game and met with your child's teacher and make sure they are doing their homework and have a curfew.

And if you child gets in trouble at school, don't curse out the teacher. We need some home training to go with a more intense effort by government."

(Image credit: Lisa Powell, DDN)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NEA still an 800-pound election gorilla?

Maybe. The union certainly has the clout to operate phone banks and knock on doors. The case that this year might be different is made here, in Politico, by me...Richard Whitmire

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

McCain to Talk Merit Pay, Tutoring

Sen. John McCain will use a speech he plans to give to the NAACP annual convention next week in Cincinnati to talk about education. According to this Associated Press story, he will talk about merit pay for teachers, and tutoring for low-income students on July 16.

His chief education adviser, Lisa Graham Keegan, told a group of reporters last month that McCain's official education platform won't be unveiled until later in the summer or early fall, during "back-to-school" time when people are "listening." But apparently, next week's NAACP meeting has provided the Arizona senator with the "right opportunity" to talk about schools. Given all of the focus now on domestic issues, particularly the economy, job losses and global competition, I was beginning to wonder how long McCain could wait before he started talking seriously about the role of education.

(This is cross-posted from my Campaign K-12 blog.)