Taste Testing Two Recipes for Educational Reform
Early Childhood Education - Obama
Proposes creation of Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state "zero to five" efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school. Obama also plans to quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both. Obama also promises to provide affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families. (few details)
Early Childhood Education - McCain
Describes the current status of early childhood education programs and expresses satisfaction with them, but proposes that Head Start Programs in particular be singled out for an accountability system not unlike No Child Left Behind.
As I read it, all federally funded preschool programs would have to meet academic standards in order to be funded. Preschool programs following popular and recommended play-based learning models may not be eligible.
K-12 Education - Obama
Obama proposes to:
Reform No Child Left Behind by funding the program, reforming the tests and supporting rather than cutting funding for schools in need of improvement.
Increase funding for charter schools but at the same time increase accountability and shut down or improve under-performing charter schools.
Make math and science education a priority by recruiting math and science degree grads to the teaching profession and easing their credentialing process. Implement a strong science curriculum at all grade levels.
Address the drop out crisis through intervention programs in middle school.
Expand high quality after school programs by doubling funding for the existing 21st Century Learning Centers program
Support college outreach programs like like GEAR UP, TRIO and Upward Bound.
Create a national "Make College A Reality" initiative that has a bold goal to increase students taking AP or college-level classes nationwide 50 percent by 2016, and provide grants for students seeking college level credit at community colleges if their school does not provide those resources.
Support English language learners through transitional bilingual education and holding schools accountable for completion rates.
Also proposes broad teacher recruitment, preparation and retention program.
K-12 Education - McCain
McCain is generally favorable toward No Child Left Behind, but adds that he is "committed to providing the resources needed to succeed. He believes we should invest in people, parents and reward achievement.: Stops short of promising funding or assessment reforms.
McCain proposes to:
Promote school choice through school vouchers. If schools are not improving under NCLB, McCain would address the problem through private school vouchers.*
Ease teacher certification requirements, expand Teach for America and programs like it, and provide bonuses for teachers who locate in underperforming schools and achieve measurable results.
Give individual principals greater control over spending.
Expand "virtual learning" classrooms and tutoring programs.
And lastly, increase funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship program and make it national.
*School vouchers typically only cover
a percentage of tuition costs. Most low-income families would still be
unable to afford private school, placing their kids at the mercy of
even less funding for their public school.
Private schools are not subject to testing requirements. (In other
words, they don't have to prove they are better than your local public
school.) According to a 2006 study, when adjusting for factors such as
English as a second language students, there is little noticeable
difference in achievement between public and private school students.
In fact, in the particular instance of Conservative Christian schools,
students perform noticeably lower in mathematics on standardized tests
than do their public school counterparts.
Higher Education - Obama
Obama proposes to:
Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit "This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Recipients of the credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of community service."
Simplify the process for financial aid, by allowing families to simply check a box on their tax return rather than filing a separate application.
Higher Education - McCain
McCain proposes to
improve information for parents,
simplify existing higher education tax benefits,
simplify financial aid applications by consolidating programs (no details),
improve university research by eliminating earmarks (? not really an issue until at least grad school for most students)
fix the student lending program by "an expansion of the lender-of-last resort capability of the federal student loan system and demand[ing] the highest standard of integrity for participating private lenders"
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a big believer in public education. My children attend public school in a district with complete school choice. (Meaning, we can send our kids to any public school in the district, provided space is available) We are very happy with our public school, which has an excellent arts-focused curriculum, test scores consistently well above the state average, and lots of parent involvement. All this, despite an urban location in an oft-maligned district.
I am not a big fan of vouchers, or what they could mean for the public schools.