Andrew Rotherham and Richard Whitmire offer a 9-point education plan to aspiring US Presidential candidates. Here it is:
- Don’t just attack No Child Left Behind. It has done a lot of good. For poor and minority kids, it’s their best chance. Of course, the ultimate goal is unrealistic, but do Super Bowl-winning coaches launch their seasons by challenging players to achieve break-even records? Instead of criticizing, put forward serious ideas that will make it work.
- Urge better pay for better teaching. We do need to pay teachers more, but we need to pay them very differently, too. Use the more than $3 billion the federal government spends annually on teachers to catalyze a complete overhaul of teacher preparation, evaluation and compensation.Â
- Take the New York City idea national. It took a determined capitalist such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a trust-busting lawyer such as Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to highlight the missing ingredient of education reform: It’s all about increasing the supply of schools that work, stupid. That means changing incentives, accountability and practices to focus solely on student learning. And, in some cases, that means stuffing high-flying new schools and charter schools into existing neighborhood schools. It is not perfect and not always pretty, but it is progress, and the voters rewarded Bloomberg for his tenacity.Â
- Don’t let the “V” word pass your lips. You need to say something on school choice. Americans expect choices in all areas of their lives, including their schools. Vouchers look good on paper, but what good have they done in cities such as Cleveland, where there are no good schools on which to spend those vouchers? We can barely afford the school system we have now, so creating a second parallel one doesn’t make much sense. Instead, expand choice and customization within the public system.Â
- Transform school transfers. It makes no sense that a student in a failing D.C. school can transfer only to another failing school in the city when there are good schools a short bus or train ride away in Maryland and Virginia. If that sounds too complicated a problem to solve, then ask yourself: Am I really commander in chief material?Â
- Remember more time means more learning. Some students need more time to master challenging content, and some schools simply have to spend more time on teaching than they do now. Tie new money to deliberate plans to improve student performance, not just do more of the same.Â
- Forget the “national” in national standards. Sure, national standards in math and reading make sense, but there is little appetite for federally imposed standards. Meanwhile, the national standards debate is morphing into an excuse to delay real accountability. There are backdoor ways to get to national standards, such as encouraging states to collaborate on shared standards.Â
- Open the door to pre-kindergarten education. Academically focused pre-kindergarten programs help close the racial and economic achievement gap. Such programs are expensive, but taxpayers actually recoup the money in savings down the road because these programs help keep kids out of special education and out of trouble.Â
- Demand that the U.S. Department of Education launch an aggressive research agenda. There is no shortage of issues teachers need help with: how to succeed with Latino students, middle-school students and boys in all grades. And will someone please help schools teach literacy in the upper grades?