We’re all eagerly awaiting the showdown up at Teachers College this evening between the McCain Campaign’s Lisa Graham Keegan and the Obama campaign’s Linda Darling-Hammond. And we can all watch it live on the Web, courtesy of Education Week.
The Rumble Up at TC
Last week, we had a presidential debate that spent a good 10 minutes focused on education policy and the future of education reform at the presidential level. This past weekend, Eduflack has been watching the Obama television commercials (broadcast in Virginia/DC) focused on education, touting both early childhood education and the need to invest in recruiting and rewarding teachers. So what comes next in education policy?
Education Chicken and Egg at the Presidential Debate
I don’t know about you, but Eduflack was quite surprised to see the final 10 minutes or so of this evening’s presidential debate being devoted to the issue of education. Kudos must first go to CBS’ Bob Schieffer for asking the right question. It wasn’t about NCLB or teachers unions or any of the traditional hot-button issues. Instead, Schieffer asked about the United States spending more per capita on education than any other nation, yet being outperformed by many of our international counterparts.
McCain v. Obama: The Thrilla for the Schoolhouse
Over the past two days, Eduflack has taken a close look at the educational platforms offered up by the two presidential campaigns. Again, the ground rules were simple. We looked at the campaigns’ plans as identified, laid out, and described on both candidates’ official websites. No cheating from the speeches made by Lisa Keegan or Jon Schnur or other surrogates. No interpreting what a few throw-away lines from the conventions meant. Not even a few glimpses into both senators’ voting records in the congress these past four years (the time they were together). No, we are here to measure vetted, official plan against vetted official plan.
eacher education in general. Obama avoids discussions of reading/literacy, alternative certification, online learning, and parental involvement.
The McCain Education Platform
My friends (sorry, can’t resist), despite popular opinion, U.S. Sen. John McCain does indeed have a comprehensive education platform, and it is a plan that clearly reflects the collective experiences and perspectives of the senior staffers advising the McCain-Palin campaign on education policy.
– Encouraging alternative certification methods that open the door for highly motivated teachers to enter the field
– Providing bonuses for teachers who locate in underperforming schools and demonstrate strong leadership as measured by student improvement
– Providing funding for needed professional teacher development
nformation on postsecondary choices
Let the Debate Begin
As promised yesterday, today we begin the presidential education debate. First, a few of the ground rules. To compare the two campaigns’ education platforms, we will be looking at campaign websites only. Good friend and new media guru Geoff Livingston has said if you aren’t on the Web, you might as well be dead. The Internet is now our go-to source for information and data; it is where we turn when we need to learn something. So we’re just looking at what each candidate has put up on their official website. If it isn’t important enough to post on the Web, then it needn’t be part of this debate. So stump speeches, surrogate talking points, and the rest are important, so if you have them, submit them as comments and I’ll post them immediately.
Educating Ourselves on the Candidates’ Education Platforms
I admit it, I am a gadget freak. When the latest cell phone (I use a second generation iPhone) or laptop (currently working off the MacBook Air with the SSD) or TV comes out, I usually want it. Eduwife has to talk me off the ledge, as we discuss whether I really need it and whether Eduson has a high chance of breaking it should I get it (for the record, he has broken three of my cell phones in the last year and a half, including that first-generation iPhone just last month).
Campaigning on Education
We are just about at the end of our political conventions, so how has education fared? At last week’s Democratic convention, we had little mention of K-12 education, with the majority of it coming during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, and more still coming from former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Mr. Weaver, Tear Down the NEA Wall
After putting their money on Hillary Clinton early on in the process, it seems the national teachers unions are quickly regrouping, endorsing Barack Obama for the presidency. The NEA (which never officially married Clinton, but clearly had bought a ring, announced that Reg Weaver is recommending the Assembly endorse Obama at next month’s convention. (Thanks to Flypaper for pointing out Mike Antonucci’s post on this).
Of course, the AFT had previously endorsed Clinton, has announced it “will engage in a process to prepare to make an endorsement for this fall’s general election.” Anyone who has been around the political block knows that the AFT endorsement of Obama isn’t that far behind. Hopefully, they’ll take the time to talk to McCain’s education team first, though.
Back in the winter, Eduflack asked what, specifically, AFT was supporting when it endorsed Hillary. And the question is even more valid regarding today’s endorsement (or proposed endorsement) of Obama. Is Reg Weaver endorsing Obama’s support for merit pay for teachers? His support for Teach For America style programs? Backing of charter schools? Or is he endorsing the recent rhetoric attacking high-stakes testing and NCLB? (I’ll put my money on the latter.)
I join with Obama in supporting merit pay for teachers and supporting charter schools, particularly in our inner cities. And I was impressed when he went into the NEA and supported incentive pay, particularly when the union has been so strongly against it. So does an endorsement of Obama mean the NEA is changing course on performance pay for teachers?
Unfortunately, we may never know. If yesterday’s post-primary statement from Weaver is any indication, this isn’t about Obama. It’s about the NEA supporting the Democrats. And that’s a cryin’ shame. Now is the perfect time for NEA to get both candidates to put their education platform together, and let the brothers and sisters of the NEA weigh and measure both.
If we’ve learned anything from the Democratic primary, it is that hope trumps fear. The positive far outweighs the negative. And the high ground is far more adventageous than the mud pits. Unfortunately, Weaver seems to have missed that point. In calling on his nearly 3 million members to endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee, Weaver says:
“You can go down any list of what public school employees believe they need to truly help every child be successful, and you’ll see that Senator Obama supports that list and that Senator McCain not only opposes it, but has probably already voted against it.”
It’s unfortunate that the NEA can’t support Obama without attacking John McCain. The NEA has effectively sat itself on the bench for the past eight years on federal education policy, deciding it was easier to shout into the wind than to look for some middle ground with the current Administraton. If the Bush Administration wasn’t going to use the NEA’s ball, then the NEA just wasn’t going to play. And it looks like they are drawing the same line again this year.
I’m all for effective rhetoric, and during campaign times, I’ve been accused of being a little vitriolic. (For the record, I worked, successfully, on behalf for Democratic candidates, and have a keener than keen appreciation for the value of an NEA or AFT endorsement.) But when the NEA says that McCain has already voted against everything a child needs to be successful, they do the union, its members, and the students they teach a great disservice.
The NEA endorsement will go to the Democrat. We all know that. But let’s make it about the hopes, policies, and positions he stands for. It is an endorsement, and shouldn’t be an endorsement by rejection of the other guy.
No one has ever accused John McCain of being an opponent of education. If anything, now is the time for McCain to start formulating a real plan on federal education policy and demonstrate his commitment to reform and school improvement. He may not get the union endorsement, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get the votes of teachers.
Mr. Weaver, how about letting McCain speak to the collected membership and make an educated choice?
Some Ed Reccs for Senator McCain
Thanks to the Fordham Foundation’s Flypaper blog (http://www.edexcellence.net/flypaper/) we now have a good sense for the great minds advising expected Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain on education policy. As to be expected, it is an impressive bunch. Their challenge, though, will be to get education issues to stand out on the Arizona Senator’s proposed domestic policy agenda.
No, McCain is not known in DC circles as one of the Senate’s leaders on education. But that doesn’t mean he can’t rise to the occasion. The presidential bully pulpit is a strong one, and education remains a top five domestic policy issue for most. If you can’t figure out how to fix the economy in the short term, you certainly can focus on education for the long-term economic benefit.
More than a year ago, Eduflack offered a top-five list of education ideas for the Republican nominee to think about when constructing an education platform. A lot has changed since then. The latest State of the Union seemed to de-emphasize the future of vouchers. Research still isn’t sure the long-term impact of charter schools. And the expected Democratic presidential nominee has been known to talk about merit pay for teachers.
That said, let’s take a look at those March 2007 recommendations:
“1. National standards benefit the nation. Such standards don’t mean we are denying local control. They empower our local districts to remain competitive in their state, across the nation, and throughout the world. National standards, both for students and teachers, are the only way today’s students can succeed in tomorrow’s global economy.
2. Invest in education R&D. We all understand the value of investing in medical or technology R&D. Now is the time to invest in research focused on improving our schools and educational quality in our classrooms. Such investment is key to triggering true innovation at the state or national level, leading to improved economies, better jobs, and better lives.
3. Respect the practitioners. It is easy for some to say our schools have failed because our teachers have failed. If any Republican wants to engender change in our schools, they need to respect the teachers delivering the curriculum. They are on the front lines. Without their support, reform will fall flat, destined for a garbage heap of good but failed ideas.
4. Don’t fear additional spending. NCLB scared off many a Republican, particularly with increased federal education spending. The feds are still only responsible for about 8 cents of every dollar spent on public K-12 education. Additional funding is good for the system, as long as we are spending it on research-proven instruction and improvements we know will boost student achievement.
5. Focus on what works. For decades, our schools have been bombarded with the latest in snakeoils and silver bullets. Today’s educators want to see what works in schools like theirs, with kids lke theirs. NCLB is all about replicable school reforms. Now is the time to spotlight what is going right in your hometown or your home state, and use it as the model for why we need to continue federal education reforms. Many of today’s improvements are directly tied to NCLB efforts. Take credit for it.”
Interestingly, these reccs ring as true today as they did 15 months ago. But I’d offer a few caveats to Arizona’s senior senator:
* Don’t hitch your wagon to NCLB, attach yourself to the intent. It isn’t about “NCLB” the proper, it is about doing what works and funding what is proven effective. Forget the title of the law. Focus on the outcomes. The federal government has a role in public education. Claim that role, focusing on the future and expected goals.
* Don’t forget, you were a teacher too. As a leader in the Navy, you instructed and taught. You molded and trained young men. It may not have been the ABCs or the quadratic equation, but you understand the importance of good teaching. Remind us of it.
* Shine your education agenda through the filter of economic opportunity. Too often, we view education in a vacuum. We can’t afford to do that in today’s economy. Education policies should be positioned as opportunities to better prepare today’s kids for the opportunities of tomorrow. That doesn’t mean turning our K-12 schools into trade schools, but it does mean an education that is relevant to both the student and the world.
* Borrow (and steal) from the Arizona experience. As you are looking at what is relevant, take a close look at what your Governor has been doing. Her focus on innovation and STEM education shows what we need to be thinking about in education reform. Speaking from the Arizona experience, you can let the home state serve as a model for others in need. You come from a state that gets it.
Eduflack isn’t naive. I recognize that education is not going to be a primary discussion topic for you between now and November. I don’t expect it will be an issue for a keynote speech during the Minneapolis convention. But I know it is a basic bread-and-butter issue that can play well in the blue states and with independent voters.
The days when a GOP president wanted to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education are over. Now, you have the opportunity to strengthen the Department, making it more efficient and better focused on the end result. You have a team of advisors who understand data, how to use it, and the importance of measurement and assessment. Take advantage of it. Improve the system. Reject the status quo.
And please, Senator, don’t lose sight of recc #1. It may not be popular with some, but national standards are worth a good, long look. Someone, some day is going to adopt national standards. And it will result in a legacy many seek, but almost none achieve.
Just my three cents (inflation, after all). Feel free to crib from, improve, or adopt wholesale.