Obama Campaign: Education Provides A Sturdy Ladder So Choose Carefully

This week surrogates from the Obama and Romney campaigns will discuss education policy issues here. This is a post by Melody Barnes, former Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, on behalf of the Obama campaign:

A quality education provides a sturdy ladder to the American Dream and can lead to widespread economic growth for our country. But we’re at a crossroads – a make-or-break moment for America – and in November, the country will choose between two very different paths.  Our decision will determine whether we move backward or continue the forward course set by President Obama – a bold path that spurred reform in schools, while preparing students to be the innovators, job creators and workers of tomorrow.

Our children rank in the middle of the pack in reading and science and far behind their global peers in math. In just over a generation, America has fallen from first to 16th in the world in its share of young people who hold a college degree.

To achieve better results so America once again leads the world in college graduates by 2020, each of us has a role to play.  As parents, we’ve got a responsibility to make sure homework gets done and instill a love of learning.  As a nation, we’ve got a responsibility to provide students the critical tools they need – from the latest textbooks to science labs that actually work.

In return, we should demand better performance and reform.  And that was the idea behind President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.  For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve spurred nearly every state to adopt higher standards for teaching and learning. Now, reform and resources are closing the achievement gap at America’s lowest-performing schools, and double-digit proficiency increases are already evident in schools across the country.

We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. That’s why the President is fighting to keep good teachers in classrooms despite state budget cuts, and proposing to reward the best ones, improve teacher preparation and performance and replace teachers who just aren’t helping children learn.

When it comes to fixing what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, President Obama said, if you’re willing to set higher, more honest standards, we’ll give you flexibility to meet those standards.  We combine greater freedom with greater accountability.  Because what might work in Nevada may not work in Kentucky, but every student in America should have the same opportunity to reach their potential.

Since day one, President Obama has set our nation on a forward course through stronger schools and better teachers. Gov. Mitt Romney, however, offers a different course for the country that takes three big steps backward.

For two decades – and on a bipartisan basis – we’ve made a national commitment to intervene in persistently failing schools.  Yet Romney would replace reform with a duplicative school report card that already exists in every state.  He would wash his hands of the problem entirely.

While President Obama and Romney both support public school choice, Romney proposes to make funding portable for students from low-income families or with disabilities. But federal funding is already based on enrollment, and it’s less than $1,500 for each poor child. Romney’s idea would not only divert some funds to private-school vouchers – undermining public schools that will always serve the majority of students – but it won’t be nearly enough for a parent to pay for private school or produce the results our most vulnerable children deserve.

Romney also misses the mark on teacher effectiveness, proposing nothing new. His teacher tenure and evaluation system reforms are already underway in most states. And by naming Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney embraces the extreme Republican budget that could cut 2 million children over the next decade from Head Start, and slash K-12 education putting teachers’ jobs at risk and increase class size. And Romney rejects what parents and teachers know: that smaller classes are one of the things that help students learn, especially young children.

As our economy recovers, we need a president who understands that education is an investment in our future – an economic imperative that should be within the reach of every family, not a luxury. Many details remain missing from Romney’s education proposals, but we know he would turn back the clock on reform and leave our country without the tools to prepare our children to compete and succeed.

President Obama believes every student should have the opportunity to rise as far as their hard work and initiative will take them.  That’s why he is working with Republicans and Democrats; teachers, parents and students; business leaders and advocates to ensure America out-educates the world. In November, we must choose course wisely. We can’t afford to turn back now.

10 Replies to “Obama Campaign: Education Provides A Sturdy Ladder So Choose Carefully”

  1. Our children rank in the middle of the pack in reading
    Actually, our white and asian children are at the top, with the hispanic and black children below the median score for the world.
    What is working for the white and asian children should be implemented for the hispanic and black children.

  2. Yes, we have the information that we need to improve the education of poor children but President Obama turned his back on this data and instead chose to support educational “reform” that has no basis in research.

    The President made a huge strategic mistake in joining the chorus of people bashing American educators. How many of the women now deserting Obama for Romney are schoolteachers?

    Here is the simple truth about education that Obama needs to embrace: The education of a child is a complex task that requires the cooperation of the proverbial village. Teachers cannot do it alone and shouldn’t be expected to. Parents are most important and when they can’t or won’t do the job, the community must step in to assist teachers.

  3. Interesting stuff.

    I can’t help but note how many times themes from the charter school sector come up, without ever being referenced directly.

    For example, Melody says a lot about accountability for results, higher standards, and the need for flexibility to innovate within that structure of accountability. And the campaign pushes on intervening when schools persistently fail and suporting public school choice.

    Just like when you get to say, “in bed” at the end of your fortune cookie’s advice, we could insert the phrase, “like in charter schools” throughout. Of course, it works for some of the sobering observations as well.

  4. It may be the case that the administration is only now learning that the backwash effect of mainstream educational reform, which is relentless preparation for mind-numbing multiple choice tests that are suddenly becoming of paramount importance in educators’ careers although they still lack significance for the students taking the tests, may be damaging the president’s reelection prospects. If, instead of this two-tiered educational approach, we could focus on giving all students the kind of educational opportunities that the president’s daughters are receiving at Sidwell Friends, his popularity might benefit, as would our nation’s students. Doubling down on policies too like No Child Left Behind, instead of making a clearer break with the shortcomings of that ineffective law, is not receiving the universal praise the president may have become accustomed to when surrounded by the like-minded members of his first administration’s team.

  5. President Obama would never have adopted that debate strategy, and kept coming back to RttT, if he had any idea of how destructive his policies have been to poor children of color, or how much they are despised by teachers.

    I just pray that teachers will not act on their justified anger towards the president and stay home. As bad as President Obama has been on urban education, for the netire nation’s sake, we still need to turn out for a second term.

  6. Yes, I too believe that President Obama has no idea of the damage done to poor children of color with his “reforms.” Instead of trying to privatize a public school system that has produced citizens that consistently dazzle the world with their accomplishments, he could have made this system available to all children by advocating open enrollment and providing employment and subsidized housing in all communities across the United States. It should be obvious to anyone with a brain that a “bad” school is one with many impoverished children in it and “bad” teachers are people who teach in those schools.

    The fact that Obama chose Sidwell Friends for his daughters is evidence that he DOES know what a good school looks like. While it is not practical to provide this type of education for every child, he could have moved toward this ideal by advocating the following for our least privileged children:

    two teachers for every classroom with the goal of a 15:1 pupil teacher ratio;

    enforcement of proper behavior with very disruptive children removed from regular classrooms;

    authentic learning with lots of discussion, reading and writing;

    careful and continuous monitoring of pupil progress throughout the year (as opposed to one test in May);

    prompt academic intervention for students who need it;

    high-quality, developmentally appropriate preschool for the youngest children;

    fully qualified, experienced teachers with new teachers as assistants;

    fully equipped classrooms and libraries;

    art, music and P.E.;

    field experiences;


    President Obama could have done so much better for education. Like many other teachers, I am so very disappointed in his administration’s “reforms.”

  7. On the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) American students not in poverty have the highest test scores in the world.

    That said, the only true measure of an educational system can be found in the achievement of its adults. Americans dazzle the world with their achievements in the arts, technology, business, sports, government, law, science, medicine, entertainment, etc. etc. If there is a prize in something (Nobel, Olympics) Americans almost always take the lead. We are a nation of achievers and most of our citizens have attended our great public schools.

    Are you a middle-class person? If so, look around you. How are the young people in your family doing? In mine they have graduated from the best universities and, as lawyers, doctors, politicians, nurses, businessmen, teachers etc., can compete nicely with anyone in the world. And my family consists mainly of third generation Italian-Americans – no one was born rich.

    What we need most in education is the truth, which is:

    American children not in poverty do very well in school but the children of poverty do not. Of all the advanced nations we have the highest child poverty rate. That’s our problem and the one we need to focus on.

  8. Tom, you did you read the comments section of the EducationNext piece, right? Looks like the data interpretation rests upon shaky grounds.

    Linda’s right. Again. Bellwether should hire her out of retirement to keep their folks honest and focused on the real questions and solutions.

  9. Tom:
    Average score, reading literacy, PISA, 2009:
    [United States, Asian students 541]
    Korea 539
    Finland 536
    [United States, white students 525]
    Canada 524
    New Zealand 521
    Japan 520
    Australia 515
    Netherlands 508
    Belgium 506
    Norway 503
    Estonia 501
    Switzerland 501
    Poland 500
    Iceland 500
    United States (overall) 500
    Sweden 497
    Germany 497
    Ireland 496
    France 496
    Denmark 495
    United Kingdom 494
    Hungary 494
    OECD average 493
    Portugal 489
    Italy 486
    Slovenia 483
    Greece 483
    Spain 481
    Czech Republic 478
    Slovak Republic 477
    Israel 474
    Luxembourg 472
    Austria 470
    [United States, Hispanic students 466]
    Turkey 464
    Chile 449
    [United States, black students 441]
    Mexico 425

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