Barack Obama delivered what his campaign billed as a “major policy address” on education today in Dayton, Ohio. Excerpts from the prepared remarks and comments below:
Every four years, we hear about how this time, we’re going to make [education] an urgent national priority. Remember the 2000 election, when George W. Bush promised to be the “education President”?
This is an odd criticism. An awful lot of people would probably argue that Bush has been the wrong kind of education President, but he’s undeniably been an education President. No Child Left Behind was one of his signature domestic policy achievements and the administration has steadily pushed the issue, for good or ill, ever since.
The rising importance of education reflects the new demands of our new world.
“…children here in Dayton are growing up competing with children not only in Detroit, but in Delhi as well.”
The likelihood of your city being singled out for attention on education and workforce issues is now crucially dependent on its name beginning with the same first letter as a major Indian and/or Chinese city filled with Friedmanesque software engineers willing to work for ten bucks an hour. See also: Baltimore / Bangalore; Seattle / Shenzen, etc. etc.
If we want to keep building the cars of the future here in America, we can’t afford to see the number of PhDs in engineering climbing in China, South Korea, and Japan even as it’s dropped here in America.
I’d like to see this and similar sentiments phrased so it’s clear that more PhDs in China, South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere is a good thing that will help America in the long run. The world has many vexing problems and the more smart, well-educated people to solve them, the better. An expanded well-educated class in China and elsewhere will create new markets for the kind of high-value goods and services that America produces, and they’ll make newer, better products that we’d like to buy. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll improve the lives of people in those countries, which we should all care about. Many countries in Europe plus Canada, Australia and others have comparable levels of college degree attainment to the United States and I don’t think anyone wishes that weren’t the case; indeed it’s not a coincidence that those countries are also our military allies, trading partners, etc. And of course Japan already falls into this category.
If we want to see middle class incomes rising like they did in the 1990’s, we can’t afford a future where so many Americans are priced out of college; where only 20 percent of our students are prepared to take college-level English, math, and science; where millions of jobs are going unfilled because Americans don’t have the skills to work them; and where barely one in ten low-income students will ever get their college degree.
My favorite paragraph thus far. Out-of-control college price increases are a vexing problem that grows worse every year. Low levels of college preparation among college-goers points to the need to greatly improve curricula, instruction, and guidance in high schools. And socioeconomic disparities in higher educaiton should always be defined as they are here, not as the percent of low-income students who go to college but the percent who graduate.
Lincoln created the land grant colleges to ensure the success of the union he was fighting to save.
A bit of an overstatement. Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1862 into law, but I don’t think he had much to do with it’s conception; Presidents didn’t really pursue legislative agendas back then as they do now.
In the past few weeks, my opponent has taken to talking about the need for change and reform in Washington, where he has been part of the scene for about three decades.
And in those three decades, he has not done one thing to truly improve the quality of public education in our country. Not one real proposal or law or initiative. Nothing.
While Virginia Walden Ford did a nice job of making the case for McCain on education over at Eduwonk a couple of weeks ago, in the end this criticism is fair. John McCain has pushed a lot of issues in Congress, both foreign and domestic, but education has never been one of them and was virtually absent from his campaign agenda until relatively recently.
You don’t reform our schools by opposing efforts to fully fund No Child Left Behind.
True, although Democrats have been running Congress for coming up on two years now and they haven’t proposed to fully fund it either.
Obama’s education plan will “finally put a college degree within reach for anyone who wants one by providing a $4,000 tax credit to any middle class student who’s willing to serve their community or their country.”
There are plenty of worse ways to spend money than tying college aid to national service. But (per above re: college prices) history suggests that there’s no amount of federal student aid that colleges and unviersities can’t absorb–and then some–by raising tuition. I’m also not a fan of financial aid via tax credit; the Clinton-era HOPE and Lifetime Learning credits cost the treasury billions of dollars per year, they’re not nearly as well-targeted to (per above re: socieconomic attainment disparities) low-income students as are other forms of aid.
I’ll tell you what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind. Forcing our teachers, our principals, and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong. Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong. And by the way – don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test.
Unsatisfying. Fundamentally, the NCLB debate is not about resources. Even a “fully funded” NCLB would provide less than five percent of what it costs to run the nation’s K-12 school system. The debate is about how best to measure educational success and what do when we determine that success is insufficient. Reasonable people can differ profoundly on those questions, but I’m pretty sure nobody is for “throwing up your hands and walking away from them.” Similarly, re: “don’t tell us…”–who, exactly, is telling us this? That’s just a straw man and a flimsy one at that.
We need assessments that can improve achievement by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem-solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy.
Yes, we do! Education Sector will be releasing a new report on this very topic next month. Watch this space for details.
It’s time to ask ourselves why other countries are outperforming us in education. Because it’s not that their kids are smarter than ours – it’s that they’re being smarter about how to educate their kids.
An important acknowledgment that educational failures are often the result of educational problems, which is surprisingly hard for some people to admit.
…as President, I’ll double the funding for responsible charter schools.
Arguably the most significant line in the speech. I take this as a clear commitment to public school choice and multiple ways of building and governing public schools, BUT with a strong emphasis on quality and accountability, i.e. “responsible,” or as Obama goes on to say, “Charter schools that are successful will get the support they need to grow. And charters that aren’t will get shut down.” This is one of those issues where I think there’s really not much room for reasonable debate: Of course we should give parents choices among public schools and create new pathways for entrepreuneurialism and innovation, and of course that should only happen in a context of meaningful public accountability beyond simple market forces. As Eduwonk notes, the fact Obama delivered this kind of sharp message in Ohio, where charters have been very controversial, is meaningful.
And when our teachers succeed in making a real difference in our children’s lives, we should reward them for it by finding new ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them. We can do this. From Prince George’s County in Maryland to Denver, Colorado, we’re seeing teachers and school boards coming together to design performance pay plans.
This is another step toward the new consensus around teacher pay, which is that everyone now concedes that some kind of differentiation beyond the standards steps-and-lanes experience + credentials system is needed, so the real debate is about paying teachers for what other things and how. The politically safe approach is to limit this to teaching in shortage areas and hard-to-staff schools, so just by using the phrase “performance pay,” Obama sends a good signal.
teachers who are doing a poor job will get extra support, but if they still don’t improve, they’ll be replaced. Because as good teachers are the first to tell you, if we’re going to attract the best teachers to the profession, we can’t settle for schools filled with poor teachers.
Again, simply talking about “poor teachers” and the general idea of firing teachers for poor performance is, in and of itself, valuable for the purposes of moving this debate to reasonable ground. Since these issues tend to play out district-by-district at the contract neogotiation level, there’s little a President can do to influence them on the policy front, but the bully pulpit affects the tenor of highly public negotiations like those that are going on DC right now, in terms of how the press reacts, how the national unions choose to intervene, how much political capital local leaders are willing to expend, etc.
I’ll create a parent report card that will show you whether your kid is on the path to college. We’ll help schools post student progress reports online so you can get a regular update on what kind of grades your child is getting on tests and quizzes from week to week. If your kid is falling behind, or playing hooky, or isn’t on track to go to college or compete for that good paying job, it will be up to you to do something about it.
The college prep part of this is, if properly implemented, a very good idea. The speech notes above that only 20 percent of student who go to college are fully prepared to succeed there. That’s a frightening number, and most students and parents simply don’t know if they’re on that track until it’s too late. They take classes in high school, pass them, earn their diploma, apply to college, get accepted, and enroll, and only then find out that they should have taken a whole different set of course, years before.