Obama: Educate from birth through college

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 America’s public education problems when he headed a philanthropic drive here a decade ago that spent $150 million on Chicago’s troubled schools and barely made a dent.

The Annenberg Challenge flopped everywhere, not just in Chicago.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Seems like he is from the Rockefeller school of politics, he wants to solve problems with money, your money.

  2. GoogleMaster says:

    If the government is to take your kids from birth and return them at the age of 18 or 22, then what exactly are the duties of the parents? Or are they merely reduced to providers of genetic material?

  3. GoogleMaster,

    You might want to read (or watch) Huxley’s *Brave New World.* Or maybe you don’t want to–parents are cut out of even the biological part of child-rearing. The government does it all.

    As for NCLB…it was very well-intentioned,and carried, like all such government intervention programs, loads of unintended consequences. However, what needed to have been done was not done–uniform standards set for all grade levels for all subjects for all states–and what was done was watered down. Funding might be more available for classroom instruction and teacher pay with fewer dead weight administrators.

    Keep in mind, I did say “dead weight.” Many are competent, some highly so. However, most of the ones I’ve observed have done nothing but generate paperwork to justify both their position, and maybe justify giving them a secretary or two. Or five. I’ve seen that at all levels of education, from the small, rural school I went to through high school to the small Midwestern state college I earned my BA at (and now work for) to the large, Midwestern Division I school where I taught and earned my MA.

    Of course, cutting the dead weight administrators will never happen. Not even close. They’re too much like government programs.

  4. GoogleMaster–Sounds like you don’t actually have any kids, or else participate only as a genetic donor.

  5. Brett Pawlowski says:

    All these grand plans from both candidates, with no possible way to pay for them (“finding efficiencies elsewhere” isn’t a serious answer).

    It would be nice to actually hear someone talk about the current dynamics of education: how we’re going to tackle the tougher challenges ahead while government support (primarily local and state funds) is simultaneously being reduced.

    We don’t need grand new initiatives – we need to hear someone talk about how we’re going to do the job we’ve already committed to in a changing financial environment.

  6. Margo said:

    “GoogleMaster–Sounds like you don’t actually have any kids, or else participate only as a genetic donor.”

    Huh? What part of Obama’s increased intrusion do you like?

  7. R:

    As a working parent who has supported two kids almost to adulthood, I would have welcomed support for early childhood education and quality after-school care. I was diligent and paid hard earned cash for what my family did utilize, but it was a yearly chore to identify a summer’s worth of safe programs (always looking for the additional component of learning, quality recreation and socialization), to coordinate after-school care with the hours of school and bus schedules and to track homework and notes through that intermediary step, and to balance quality, accessibility and affordability in day-care before they were old enough for school.

    This did not–as GoogleMaster suggests–mean that I had nothing to do as a parent.

  8. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Joanne commented:
    “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.”

    Perhaps it depends on what is meant by parent accountability. Parents don’t need to tutor but parental support for education is crucial. Think of all the uneducated immigrant parents whose children have excelled in school because the parents so strongly supported it. Many learned English from the lessons their children brought home from school. The children saw their parents took learning seriously so they did too.

    I know of many homeschooling parents whose children are independently mastering things the parents haven’t. And, like the immigrant parents, many homeschooling parents learn right along with their kids. It works and the kids excel.

    From my perspective, the attitude taken by some educators of “leave this to the professionals; don’t try it at home” that has weakened education.

  9. Margo,

    I’m afraid you’re missing the point again.

    You presumably had plenty to do; I think what GoogleMaster suggested was that you would have nothing to do “if Mr. Obama’s plan to take over all of this came to pass.”

    What makes you think, by the way, that these government ‘droids, anointed though they surely would be by the unions, would do a better job than you of choosing “…early childhood education and quality after-school care” than you?

    Surely you think better of yourself than that?

  10. Can’t choose from stuff that ain’t there.

  11. “Can’t choose from stuff that ain’t there.”

    Really? There’s no pre-school or high-quality after-school care available?

    Nonsense.

    I do think, though, that the best choice is for one of the parents to stay home and look after the children. IIRC, you chose to go it alone – so why are you looking for Mr. Obama to bail you out?

  12. Check into any US research on the topic of availability, you will find that we are under-resourced and both quality and availability tends to favor those who have more. Yep, I chose to go it alone, but I have known far too many others who set out down the road as a partner and ended up a single, not to mention those who stepped into a need that was created by someone else, or families who need the income from both parents, etc. etc. etc.

  13. Margo said:

    “…both quality and availability tends to favor those who have more”

    And so it should! Who on earth – except of course the progressives would disagree?

    Yes, divorce is far too easy and common – but why would you expect anything different when it’s so easy for a woman to latch on to a man, wait till he makes some money, declare that she must “find herself”, take money she hasn’t earned, and ride off into the sunset – or at least the plastic surgeon’s office?

    And the feministae would cheer her on.

    What a bunch of welfare queens!

  14. –As a working parent who has supported two kids almost to adulthood, I would have welcomed support for early childhood education and quality after-school care.

    by “support” you mean an “attagirl!”? oh, no, you mean MY MONEY. the money with which my family put a roof over our kids’ heads, food on table, etc. and with which I fun my own staying home to be there for my kids after school.

    -I was diligent and paid hard earned cash for what my family did utilize, but it was a yearly chore to identify a summer’s worth of safe programs

    oh, but if the feds do it, no chore at all! Look how you don’t need to research public schools or public housing or doctors! you’d just go wherever they assigned you, right?

    –(always looking for the additional component of learning, quality recreation and socialization),

    and everyone will want those exact same ingredients you wanted right?

    -to coordinate after-school care with the hours of school and bus schedules and to track homework and notes through that intermediary step, and to balance quality, accessibility and affordability in day-care before they were old enough for school.

    yup, someone else should have helped you make those parenting decisions! oh wait, this looks strikingly like supposed parent accountability…