Speaking at Stebbins High School (mostly white, average scores) near Dayton, Ohio, Barack Obama called for spending more to provide a “world-class education” from birth through college graduation. Specifically, he promised more federal funding for early childhood education, “full funding” for No Child Left Behind, more for special education and “a $4,000 tax credit to any middle-class student who’s willing to serve their community or their country.” (What about poor and rich students who serve?)
Now, part of the plan also calls for fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind. (Cheers, applause.) I — I’ve said this before. I believe that the goals of this law were the right ones. We all want high standards. We all want a world-class education. We all want highly qualified teachers in the classroom. Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher is right. Closing the achievement gap that exists in too many cities and rural areas is right. More accountability is right. Higher standards are right.
But 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. (Cheers, applause.) Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.)
Obama backed doubling funding for “responsible charter schools,” funding innovative schools, “service scholarships” for teachers who work in high-need areas, performance pay for teachers (with better ways to assess performance) and firing for incompetents. As president, he’ll “will help schools integrate technology into their curriculum so we can make sure public school students are fluent in the digital language of the 21st century economy.”
. . . I’ll create a parents 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 child 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.
Actually, parent accountability has limits: Some parents aren’t educated enough to tutor their kids at home. Effective schools provide some kind of extra help for students who are falling behind.
We’ve heard most of this before, though Obama wants to spend a whole lot more on early childhood education. I like the idea of linking college scholarships to military or civilian service — or perhaps future service as a teacher, nurse, doctor in a high-need area.
Obama didn’t tackle the tough questions about NCLB, writes Checker Finn.
I counted a dozen separate programs, commitments and initiatives. None of them addressed the really tough issues surrounding No Child Left Behind (who sets standards, what constitutes adequate progress, what exactly to do about failing schools, etc); or about the big Title I program that is its centerpiece; or about special ed, HeadStart, or anything else that comprises the semi-dysfunctional corpus of existing federal programs and policies.
Obama praised Eisenhower’s National Defense Education Act, which doubled federal spending on education. It was an expensive failure, writes Andrew Coulson at Cato @ Liberty.
Federal education spending has increased by 41 percent since the passage of No Child Left Behind.
Update: In a long story on Obama’s experience with education, NY Timesman Sam Dillon observes that the candidate chaired the Annenberg Challenge campaign in Chicago.
Senator Barack Obama learned how hard it can be to solve Americaâ€™s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicagoâ€™s troubled schools and barely made a dent.
The Annenberg Challenge flopped everywhere, not just in Chicago.