Tuesday, March 10, 2009

President Obama's education plan

President Obama has used the economic stimulus bill and the budget to divert historic amounts of money to funding for education, and today he spoke about his plans for reform.  The story is here, commentary from Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times here.  Obama's full remarks can be read here.

Key elements of the plan [with some of my initial thoughts in brackets]:

--Pay successful teachers more, usher unsuccessful teachers out the door.  [no word on how this will be measured, though.  In general, test scores are used as the benchmark - a measure that almost certainly would do more harm than good.]

--More funding for early childhood education.

--Cutting funding for wasteful education programs, i.e. any federally-funded education programs that have not been able to demonstrate that they are working.

--Expanded access to daytime child care for working parents.

--More funding for successful charter schools.  Removal of state-level caps on the number of charter schools allowed as a trade-off for more accountability.

--"Better standards and assessments," i.e. national standards. [yet another set of high-stakes tests?  Or would the implementation of national tests entail doing away with the state-level tests?]

--A fund to invest in innovation at the district level.

--Improved data-sharing to track students' educational progress from childhood through college. [this raises serious privacy concerns]

--Using the stimulus to avoid teacher layoffs.  Improve teacher recruiting and retention.  

--Alternative certification programs.  ("Alternative routes to teaching").

--More time in school through a longer school day and a longer school year. [will teachers be paid more as a result?  How would this affect kids' ability to participate in extracurriculars, athletics, and summer programs?  How will the extra time be used effectively?]

--Extra pay for math and science teachers to make up for shortages.

--New efforts to discourage dropping out.

--Simplify federal financial aid assistance forms to encourage the pursuit of higher education or vocational training.  Increased Pell Grants and Perkins Loans.

--Increased adult education and job training options, especially delivered through community colleges.