MANCHESTER, N.H.--White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), on a New Hampshire swing Tuesday, is unveiling an $18 billion education program to be partly funded by delaying one of NASA's space exploration programs.
Obama makes the trade-off as he calls for a range of federal initiatives to improve elementary education, with a centerpiece of his plan teacher training. He has one mandate, calling for the "professional accreditation of all programs preparing teachers." He also wants to de-emphasize teaching to the test--something he calls "preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests."
An Obama campaign policy official who the campaign did not want identified said the plan calls for a five year delay in NASA's Constellation program, seen as a "steppingstone" to Mars exploration. That program should not be a priority the official said. To read plan details LINK
to read it here, click below..
Obama avoids the specific hot button issues of merit pay for teachers and vouchers in his speech.
Below is transcript, as prepared. Obama, speaking from a teleprompter, pretty much stuck to this text.
Major Policy Speech, Obama Announces Plan to Provide All Americans with a World-Class Education
from the Obama campaign...
Manchester, NH— Senator Barack Obama today announced his comprehensive plan to provide a world-class education for all Americans in a major policy address, “Our Kids, Our Future,” at Manchester Central High School in Manchester, NH.
At a time when our schools have been shortchanged by the underfunding of “No Child Left Behind,” Obama called for a new era of mutual responsibility in education where parents, teachers, leaders in Washington, and citizens all across the country come together for the sake of our children’s success. Obama’s plan will provide every American child the chance to receive the best education our country has to offer from the moment they are born to the day they graduate college. In addition to demanding excellence in education, the plan calls for providing the pay and resources that America’s educators deserve.
Obama, who has fought for improving education his entire public life - first as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago and then through his work as a state Senator and U.S. Senator – discussed how, as President, he will make a real commitment to education and break free from the same debates that have preoccupied Washington for decades.
Senator Obama was introduced at the event by Jane LaCasse, a former New Hampshire Teacher of the Year with more than three decades of education experience that currently supervises student teachers for the undergraduate program at Plymouth State University.
Barack Obama’s comprehensive plan to provide a world-class education for all Americans will:
Reform No Child Left Behind.
Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education programs and child care opportunities so children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Work to place effective teachers in every classroom in America, especially those in high-poverty, high-minority areas.
Reward effective teachers for taking on challenging assignments and helping children succeed.
Support highly-effective principals and school leaders.
Make science and math education a national priority.
Reduce the high school dropout rate by focusing on proven methods to improve student achievement and enhance graduation and higher education opportunities.
Close the achievement gap and invest in what works.
Empower parents to raise healthy and successful children by taking a greater role in their child’s education at home and at school.
Obama’s plan to provide a world-class education for all Americans can be viewed in full HERE.
As Prepared for Delivery:
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Our Kids, Our Future
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
EMBARGOED for Delivery
I’ve visited many schools and spoken to many teachers and students throughout my two decades of public service, but one I’ll always remember is my visit to Dodge Elementary School in Chicago just a few years ago.
I was talking with a young teacher there, and I asked her what she saw as the biggest challenge facing her students. She gave me an answer that I had never heard before. She spoke about what she called “These Kids Syndrome” – the tendency to explain away the shortcomings and failures of our education system by saying that “these kids can’t learn” or “these kids don’t want to learn” or “these kids are just too far behind.” And after awhile, “these kids” become somebody else’s problem.
And this teacher looked at me and said, “When I hear that term it drives me nuts. They’re not ‘these kids.’ They’re our kids. All of them.”
She’s absolutely right. The small child in Manchester or Nashua whose parents can’t find or afford a quality pre-school that we know would make him more likely to stay in school, and read better, and succeed later in life – he is our child.
The little girl in rural South Carolina or the South Side of Chicago whose school is literally falling down around her, and can’t afford new textbooks, and can’t attract new teachers because it can’t afford to pay them a decent salary – she is our child.
The teenager in suburban Boston who needs more skills and better schooling to compete for the same jobs as the teenager in Bangalore or Beijing – he is our child.
These children are our children. Their future is our future. And it’s time we understood that their education is our responsibility. All of us.
This is a defining moment for our generation. Revolutions in communications and technology have created a global economy of high-tech, high-wage jobs that can be located anywhere there’s an internet connection – an economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge.
Education is now the currency of the Information Age. It’s no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success – it’s a pre-requisite. There simply aren’t as many jobs today that can support a family where only a high school degree is required. And if you don’t have that degree, there are even fewer jobs available that can keep you out of poverty.
In this kind of economy, countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Already, China is graduating eight times as many engineers as we are. By twelfth grade, our children score lower on math and science tests than most other kids in the world. And we now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation in the world.
Well I do not accept this future for America. I do not accept an America where we do nothing about six million students who are reading below their grade level – an America where sixty percent of African-American fourth graders aren’t even reading at the basic level.
I do not accept an America where only twenty percent of our students are prepared to take college-level classes in English, math, and science – where barely one in ten low-income students will ever graduate from college.
I do not accept an America where we do nothing about the fact that half of all teenagers are unable to understand basic fractions – where nearly nine in ten African-American and Latino eighth graders are not proficient in math. I do not accept an America where elementary school kids are only getting an average of twenty-five minutes of science each day when we know that over 80% of the fastest-growing jobs require a knowledge base in math and science.
This kind of America is morally unacceptable for our children. It’s economically untenable for our future. And it’s not who we are as a country.
We are not a ‘these kids’ nation. We are the nation that has always understood that our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children – all of them. We are the country that has always believed in Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that “…talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth or birth.”
It’s this belief that led America to set up the first free public schools in small New England towns. It’s a promise we kept as we moved from a nation of farms to factories and created a system of public high schools so that everyone had the chance to succeed in a new economy. It’s a promise we expanded after World War II, when America gave my grandfather and over two million returning heroes the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.
And when America has fallen short of this promise – when we forced Linda Brown to walk miles to a dilapidated Topeka school because of the color of her skin; it was ordinary Americans who marched and bled; who took to the streets and fought in the courts until the arrival of nine little children at a Little Rock school made real the decision that in America, separate can never be equal.
That’s who we are. That’s why I can stand here today. Because somebody stood up when it was hard; stood up when it was risky. Because even though my mother didn’t have a lot of money, scholarships gave me the chance to go to some of the best schools in the country. And I am running for President of the United States because I want to give every American child the same chances that I had.
In this election – at this defining moment – we can decide that this century will be another American century by making an historic commitment to education. We can make a commitment that’s more than just the rhetoric of a campaign – one that’s more than another empty promise made by a politician looking for your vote.
I often say that the problem with No Child Left Behind is that George Bush left the money behind. And it wasn’t just him, either. It’s pretty popular to bash No Child Left Behind out on the campaign trail, but when it was being debated in Congress four years ago, my colleague Dick Durbin offered everyone a chance to vote so that the law couldn’t be enforced unless it was fully funded. Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton passed on that chance, and I believe that was a serious mistake.
Because I think we’d all agree that the goals of this law were the right ones. 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. Making sure that necessary resources and qualified teachers are distributed equitably among every city and small town 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. Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. 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.
And by the way – don’t tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend most of the year preparing him to fill in a few bubbles on a standardized test. Don’t tell us that these tests have to come at the expense of music, or art, or phys. ed., or science. These tests shouldn’t come at the expense of a well-rounded education – they should help complete that well-rounded education. The teachers I’ve met didn’t devote their lives to testing, they devoted them to teaching, and teaching our children is what they should be allowed to do.
The fact is, No Child Left Behind has done more to stigmatize and demoralize our students and teachers in struggling schools than it has to marshal the talent and the determination and the resources to turn them around. That’s what’s wrong with No Child Left Behind, and that’s what we must change in a fundamental way.
I want to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education – one where we all come together for the sake of our children’s success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality – parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.
I won’t pretend that this will be easy. We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised, and give our states the resources they need, and finally meet our commitment to special education. But that alone is not an education policy. It’s just a starting point.
A truly historic commitment to education – a real commitment – will require new resources and new reforms. It will require a willingness to break free from the same debates that Washington has been engaged in for decades – Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more accountability. And most of all, it will take a President who is honest about the challenges we face – who doesn’t just tell everyone what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
I am running to be that President. And that’s why I’m proposing a comprehensive plan to give every American child the chance to receive the best education America has to offer – from the moment they’re born to the day they graduate college. As President, I will put the full resources of the federal government behind this plan. But to make it a reality, I will also ask more of teachers and principals; parents and students; schools and communities.
A few weeks ago, I introduced my plan to make college affordable by creating a $4,000 per year refundable tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at the average public college or university. And yesterday, I unveiled my proposal to strengthen our community colleges by offering new degrees for emerging fields and rewarding schools that graduate more students.
Today, I want to talk about what we can do to prepare every student to succeed in college – preparation that begins at birth and continues with world-class schools, outstanding teachers, and transformative principals.
The first part of my plan focuses on providing quality, affordable early childhood education to every American child.
We know what a difference early childhood programs make in the lives of our kids. Study after study proves that children in these programs – especially low-income children – are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job and more likely to earn more on that job. And for every $1 we invest in these programs, we get $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime.
In recent years, states have been able to enroll nearly one million four year olds in pre-Kindergarten programs. That’s a great success, but I believe we can do better. We need to enroll more children and we need to start at an even earlier age. Because the fact is, studies show that from the time of conception to the first day of kindergarten, children’s development progresses faster than at any other stage of life. By the age of three, 85% of the brain’s core structure is already formed. Eighty-five percent.
So here’s what we did in Illinois. As a state Senator, I helped create the Illinois Early Learning Council, which launched a program called Preschool for All. This has made us one of the first states to commit to a high quality early learning program that starts helping children from the day they’re born. It provides early care and education for new families as well as at-risk infants and toddlers, and offer at-risk three-year olds and all four-year-olds the chance to enroll in pre-Kindergarten programs.
There is no reason we can’t and shouldn’t replicate this all across America. As President, I will launch a Children’s First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children ages zero to five. We’ll create Early Learning Grants to help states create a system of high-quality early care and education for all young children and their families. We’ll increase Head Start funding and quadruple Early Start to include a quarter of a million at-risk children. I will create a Presidential Early Learning Council to coordinate this effort across all levels of government and ensure that we’re providing these children and families with the highest quality programs. And we’ll help more working parents find a safe, affordable place to leave their children during the day by improving the educational quality of our child care programs and increasing the child care tax credit. That’s how we’ll give our kids the best possible start in life, and that’s the commitment America will make when I am President.
The second part of my education plan is to recruit, support, and reward teachers and principals to ensure that every school in America is filled with outstanding educators.
We know that from the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have.
It’s who their teacher is. It’s the man or woman who stays past the last bell and spends their own money on books and supplies. It’s people like my sister who go beyond the call of duty because she believes that’s what makes the extra difference. And it does.
Well if we know how much teaching matters, it’s time America started acting like it. It’s time we treated teaching like the profession it is. I don’t want to just talk about how great teachers are – I want to be a President who rewards them for their greatness.
That starts with recruiting a new generation of teachers and principals to replace the generation that’s retiring and to keep up with the record number of students entering our schools. We’ll create a new Service Scholarship program to recruit top talent into the profession, and begin by placing these new teachers in areas like the overcrowded districts of Nevada, or struggling rural towns here in New Hampshire, or hard-to-staff subjects like math and science in schools all across the nation. And I will make this pledge as President – if you commit your life to teaching, America will commit to paying for your college education.
To prepare our new teachers, we’ll require that all schools of education are accredited, and we’ll evaluate their outcomes so that we know which ones are doing the best job at preparing the best teachers. We’ll also create a voluntary national performance assessment that actually looks at how prospective teachers can plan, teach, and support student learning, so we can be sure that every new educator is trained and ready to walk into the classroom and start teaching effectively. New Hampshire is already leading the way here by having designed a performance-based educator preparation system, and the national assessment I’m proposing would help states like this one achieve their goals for state-of-the-art preparation of all teachers .
To support our teachers, we will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits. We know that mentoring is one of the most effective ways to retain the one-third of new teachers who leave the profession in the first five years. In states that have tried this, like California, only five percent of new teachers have quit. As President, I will expand these mentoring programs nationwide to give all our teachers the chance to succeed. And I will also make sure that teachers have the conditions in which they can succeed – including excellent principals who support their work, the materials they need to teach effectively, and time to plan and collaborate with one another on improving instruction.
And where they do succeed – where our teachers and principals go above and beyond the call to make a real difference in our children’s lives – I think it’s time we rewarded them for it.
Cities like Denver have already proven that by working with teachers, this can work – that we can find new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not just based on an arbitrary test score.
My plan would provide resources to try these innovative programs in school districts all across America. Under my Career Ladder Initiative, these districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as mentors to new teachers with the salary increase they deserve. They can reward those who teach in underserved places like rural New Hampshire and across urban America. And if teachers acquire additional knowledge and skills to serve students better – if they consistently excel in the classroom – that work can be valued and rewarded as well.
Now, if we do all this and find that there are teachers who are still struggling and underperforming, we should provide them with individual help and support. And if they’re still underperforming after that, we should find a quick and fair way to put another teacher in that classroom. Teacher associations and school boards in a number of cities have led the way by developing peer assistance and review plans that do exactly this – setting professional standards that put children first. We owe our teachers that, and we owe our children that.
And while we’re at it, let’s finally help our teachers and principals develop assessments that teach our kids to become more than just good test-takers. That’s why the third part of my plan is to work with our nation’s governors and educators to create and use assessments that can improve achievement all across America by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation, and problem-solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy.
New Hampshire has been a leader on this. You’ve developed innovative assessments, including digital portfolios, to develop and demonstrate student proficiency in technology, science, and other core content areas, and there’s no reason we can’t start replicating this all across the country.
The goal of educational testing should be the same as medical testing – to diagnose a student’s needs so you can help address them. Tests should not be designed as punishment for teachers and students, they should be used as tools to help our children grow and compete. Tests should support learning, not just accounting. Because if we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn’t stifle innovation, they should let it thrive.
One of the subject areas where this is especially important is science. No Child Left Behind’s intense emphasis on teaching to the test has been shown to reduce the amount of time spent on teaching and assessing science – a subject area that is absolutely critical to our competitiveness as a nation. When I’m President, we will make science instruction a national priority, and we’ll develop assessments that don’t just test isolated bits of information, but advanced skills like logic, data analysis, and interpretation. New Hampshire has already begun to do this, and there’s no reason the rest of the country can’t do the same thing.
Finally, as you and I stand here today, know that there is a generation of children growing up on the mean streets and forgotten corners of this country who are slipping away from us as we speak. They walk down Corridors of Shame in rural South Carolina and sit in battered classrooms somewhere in East L.A. They are overwhelmingly black and Latino and poor. And when they look around and see that no one has lifted a finger to fix their school since the 19th century; when they are pushed out the door at the sound of the last bell – some into a virtual war zone – is it any wonder they don’t think their education is important? Is it any wonder that they are dropping out in rates we’ve never seen before?
I know these children. I know their sense of hopelessness. I began my career over two decades ago as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. And I worked with parents and teachers and local leaders to fight for their future. We set up after school programs and we even protested outside government offices so that we could get those who had dropped out into alternative schools. And in time, we changed futures.
And so while I know hopelessness, I also know hope. I know that if we bring early education programs to these communities; if we stop waiting until high-school to address the drop-out rate and start in earlier grades; if we bring in new, qualified teachers; if we expand college outreach programs like GEAR UP and TRIO and fight to expand summer learning opportunities like I’ve done in the Senate; if we do all this, we can make a difference in the lives of our children and the life of this country – not just in East L.A. or the south side of Chicago, but here in Manchester, and suburban Boston, and rural Mississippi. I know we can. I’ve seen it happen. And I will work every day to do it again as your President.
But I cannot do it alone. Government cannot do it alone. We can spend billion after billion on education in this country. We can develop a program for every problem imaginable, and we can fund those programs with every last dime we have.
But there is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one. There is no substitute for a parent who will attend those parent/teacher conferences, make sure their children are in school on time, and help them with their homework after dinner. And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn off the TV once in awhile, and put away the video games, and read to their child. Responsibility for our children’s education has to start at home. We have to set high standards for them, and spend time with them, and love them. We have to hold ourselves accountable.
You know a few years ago, a little girl at Earhart Elementary in Chicago was asked the secret to her academic success. She said, “I just study hard every night because I like learning. My teacher wants me to be a good student, and so does my mother. I don’t want to let them down.”
The challenge we face at this moment is great, but we have met great challenges before. Over the course of two centuries, we have fought and struggled and overcome to expand the promise of a good education ever further – a promise that has allowed millions to transcend the barriers of race and class and background to achieve their God-given potential.
It is now our moment to keep that promise – the promise of America – alive in the 21st century. It’s our generation’s turn to stand up and say to the little girl in Chicago, or the little boy in Manchester, or the millions like them all across the country that they are not ‘these kids’ – they are our kids. They do not want to let us down, and we cannot let them down either. That’s what I’ll be fighting for in this election, and that’s what I’ll do as President of the United States. I hope you’ll join me in that journey. Thank you.
BARACK OBAMA’S PLAN FOR LIFETIME SUCCESS THROUGH EDUCATION
Barack Obama believes that providing a high-quality education is key to addressing many of our country’s challenges, and that world-class public schools provide the path to global opportunity, high-quality employment and strong local communities. While we have many good schools in America, we can still do a better job educating our children and replicating and scaling up successful programs so that they are the norm across the country. We must set ambitious goals for education that include advanced 21st-Century skills, good character and informed citizenship.
Barack Obama’s Plan for Lifelong Success through Education will:
§ Reform No Child Left Behind.
§ Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education programs and child care opportunities so children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
§ Work to place effective teachers in every classroom in America, especially those in high-poverty, high-minority areas.
§ Reward effective teachers for taking on challenging assignments and helping children succeed.
§ Support highly-effective principals and school leaders.
§ Make science and math education a national priority.
§ Reduce the high school dropout rate by focusing on proven methods to improve student achievement and enhance graduation and higher education opportunities.
§ Close the achievement gap and invest in what works.
§ Empower parents to raise healthy and successful children by taking a greater role in their child’s education at home and at school.
I. REFORM NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Barack Obama believes that the overall goal of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is the right one – ensuring that all children can meet high standards – but the law has significant flaws that need to be addressed. He believes it was wrong to force teachers, principals and schools to accomplish the goals of No Child Left Behind without the necessary resources. We have failed to provide high-quality teachers in every classroom and failed to support and pay for those teachers. Obama understands that NCLB has demoralized our educators, broken its promise to our children and must be changed in a fundamental way.
Ø Improve Assessments: Obama believes we should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress. He will work to create assessment models that provide educators and students with timely feedback about how to improve student learning, that measure readiness for college and success in an information-age workplace; and that indicate whether individual students are making progress toward reaching high standards. This will include funds for states to implement a broader range of assessments that can evaluate higher-order skills, including students’ abilities to use technology, conduct research, engage in scientific investigation, solve problems, present and defend their ideas. These assessments will provide immediate feedback to so that teachers can begin improving student learning right away.
Ø Improve Accountability System: Barack Obama believes we need an accountability system that supports schools to improve, rather than focuses on punishments. Obama also believes schools should assess all of our children appropriately – including English language learners and special needs students. Such a system should evaluate continuous progress for students and schools all along the learning continuum and should consider measures beyond reading and math tests. It should also create incentives to keep students in school through graduation, rather than pushing them out to make scores look better.
II. INVEST IN ZERO TO FIVE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
Research shows that early experiences shape whether a child's brain develops strong skills for future learning, behavior and success. Without a strong base on which to build, children, particularly disadvantaged children, will be behind long before they reach kindergarten. Investing in early learning also makes economic sense. For every one dollar invested in high quality, comprehensive programs supporting children and families from birth, there is a $7-$10 return to society in decreased need for special education services, higher graduation and employment rates, less crime, less use of the public welfare system, and better health.
Investing in early childhood education during the infant and toddler years is particularly critical. Though parents remain the first teachers for our children, an increasing number of infants and toddlers spend significant parts of their day with caretakers other than their parents. In addition to ensuring that child care is accessible and affordable, we must do more to ensure that it is high quality and provides the early education experiences our children need.
Barack Obama believes the time has come to put children first by focusing investments where research and effective practice tell us we will have the greatest opportunity for long-term success. His comprehensive “Zero to Five” plan will provide critical supports to young children and their parents by investing $10 billion per year to:
· Create Early Learning Challenge Grants to stimulate and help fund state “zero to five” efforts.
· Quadruple the number of eligible children for Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding and improve quality for both.
· Work to ensure all children have access to pre-school.
· Provide affordable and high-quality child care that will promote child development and ease the burden on working families.
· Create a Presidential Early Learning Council to increase collaboration and program coordination across federal, state, and local levels.
A Pre-School Agenda That Begins At Birth
Children’s ability to succeed in school relies on the foundation they build in their first three years. Pre-kindergarten for four-year-olds is important, but it is not enough to ensure children will arrive at school ready to learn.
The failure to address the early learning needs of children is most apparent with disadvantaged children. One study found that a program that provided family and educational support for disadvantaged children from birth through age five, reduced problems such as probation and criminal offenses by as much as 70 percent over 20 years. Investment in children is not just morally right. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman and others have shown, these investments raise productivity of society as a whole.
Illinois is a national leader in investing in children from birth. Following recommendations of the Illinois Early Learning Council, which Barack Obama championed and helped create in the State Senate, Illinois recently launched Preschool for All. The state has made a commitment to provide a universal, voluntary and high-quality early learning program for three-year olds at-risk and all four-year-old children in Illinois, and sets aside funding to support evidenced-based early learning programs targeting infants, toddlers and their families. The program also ensures that all early learning and child care programs are properly coordinated to ensure seamless supports for children as they grow.
Recognizing that the present patchwork in the states is inadequate, Obama’s “Zero to Five” plan will provide a coordinated strategy to the early education and care of children. Obama will create incentives for the states to deliver more – and better – early education for young children.
Ø Early Learning Challenge Grants: Barack Obama will provide funding to enable states to create or expand high-quality early care and education programs for pregnant women and children from birth to age five. Early Learning Challenge Grants will help states create a seamless system of early learning, address gaps in services and enhance quality programs that serve all young children. In order to receive funding, states will be required to match new federal funds, meet quality and accountability standards, develop strong public/private partnerships, ensure that parents receive solid information, and provide support for both early learning and family support services.
Ø Expand Early Head Start: Barack Obama will quadruple the number of infants and toddlers participating in Early Head Start. Early Head Start (EHS) is the nation’s primary early education program for children from birth to age three. It is known for its comprehensive vision of care for low-income children and its high standards of quality services. EHS is designed to foster the child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development while supporting the important role of parents and caregivers in early learning. EHS enables communities to design flexible programs through a variety of service delivery options, including home-based services, but requires that programs adhere to research-based standards and principles to best support children and families.
Ø Encourage All States to Adopt Voluntary, Universal Pre-School: Total enrollment in state-funded pre-K by four-year-olds rose by 40 percent over the past five years. Yet state pre-K remains solely a program for four-year-olds in most states with a very small number of children served at younger ages. Barack Obama will provide funding to states to accelerate the trend toward voluntary, universal pre-school for all. States may use Early Learning Challenge Grants to fund high-quality preschool programs that seek to enroll every four-year-old or every three-and-four-year-old. The Early Learning Challenge Grants will provide states with the flexibility to adopt sliding-scale systems, targets and other measures designed to give children in greatest need priority.
Ø Unlock the Full Potential of Early Head Start and Head Start: Early Head Start and Head Start have traditionally served our most under-resourced families. The recent Head Start reauthorization is an important start to increasing quality and fostering collaboration with other early childhood programs. Barack Obama believes that we should invest more in those programs and ensure that they are using high-quality, evidence-based models of instruction that have been proven to work.
· Increase Head Start Funding: Barack Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program to provide low-income preschool children with critically important learning skills. He also recognizes and supports the important role parents play in the success of Head Start.
· Improve Quality of Early Head Start and Head Start: Barack Obama will provide $250 million in dedicated funds to create or expand regional training centers designed to help Head Start centers implement successful models.
Ø Expand the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The Child and Development Care Tax Credit provides too little relief for families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Currently the credit only covers up to 35 percent of the first $3,000 of child care expenses a family incurs for one child and the first $6,000 for a family with two or more children. The credit is not refundable, so upper-income families disproportionately benefit while families who make under $50,000 a year receive less than a third of the tax credit. Barack Obama will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.
Ø Increase Funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant Program: The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program provides critical support to low-income families to pay for child care. However, the Bush administration has funded this program at a constant level, while costs per child have increased. As a result, 150,000 fewer children receive CCDBG assistance today than at the beginning of the Bush Administration. If these misguided priorities continue, 300,000 children are expected to lose federal CCDBG by 2010. Barack Obama will reverse this policy and ensure that CCDBG remains adequately funded every year.
Ø Improve Child Care Quality: Since his days as an Illinois legislator, Barack Obama has been a champion of improving the quality of child care services. The Obama administration will encourage states to use their CCDBG quality set-aside funding and other federal supports to develop strategic plans that better coordinate all state birth-to-five services. This measure will help ensure that state and local programs act in an efficient manner to provide all children with the early learning resources they need for a lifetime of success. Obama will also double the resources for quality within CCDBG to support efforts such as developing quality rating systems for child care that reflect higher standards and supports for teacher training and professional development. Other examples of quality enhancements include improving student/teacher ratios, providing family support in child care settings and increasing professional development and teacher training.
Ø Support Parents with Young Children: Barack Obama will expand evidence-based home visiting programs to all low-income, first-time mothers. The Nurse-Family Partnership, for example, provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families. The trained nurses use proven methods to help improve the mental and physical health of the family by providing counseling on substance abuse, creating and achieving personal goals, and teaching effective methods to nurture children. Proven benefits of these types of programs include improved women's prenatal health, a reduction in childhood injuries, fewer unintended pregnancies, increased involvement of fathers and increased maternal employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children's school readiness. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis concluded that these programs produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. The Obama plan will assist approximately 570,000 first-time mothers each year.
Ø Presidential Early Learning Council: Building on his record creating the Illinois Early Learning Council, Barack Obama will promote program collaboration and encourage states to better coordinate the use of federal and state funding streams across early learning and child development systems such as Head Start, Child Care, Education, Early Childhood Special Education, Early Intervention, Maternal and Child Health, Child Welfare and Child Abuse Prevention and Health. Obama believes we need to work at the federal and state level to break down barriers that prevent program integration and encourage the development of state early learning systems. Obama will establish a Presidential Early Learning Council to encourage necessary dialogue among programs at the federal and state levels, and within the private and nonprofit sectors to collect and disseminate the most valid and up-to-date research on early learning, and to highlight best practices and model programs at the state and local level. Many corporate and philanthropic leaders have already demonstrated their commitment to investing in early care and education at the state and national level. As part of the Council’s efforts, Barack Obama will bring together governors and state elected leaders, business leaders, community and religious leaders, and experts from research and science to discuss the opportunities for expanding public/private investments in our youngest children.
III. RECRUIT, PREPARE, RETAIN, AND REWARD AMERICA’S TEACHERS
From the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is their teacher. Barack Obama values teachers and the central role that they play in education. To ensure competent, effective teachers in schools that are organized for success, Obama’s teaching quality plan will:
Expand service scholarships to underwrite high-quality preparation for teachers.
Support ongoing improvements in teacher education to enable teachers to meet the challenges of their demanding jobs,
Provide mentoring for beginning teachers so that more of them stay in teaching and develop sophisticated skills.
Create incentives for shared planning and learning time for teachers.
Support career pathways in participating districts that provide ongoing professional development and reward accomplished teachers for their expertise.
The goal is to fundamentally transform the teaching profession by ensuring that it offers high-quality opportunities for professional growth and career development, as other professions like law, medicine, architecture, engineering and accounting do. The teaching quality initiative will help eliminate teacher shortages in hard-to-staff areas and subjects, improve teacher retention rates, strengthen teacher preparation programs, improve professional development, and better utilize and reward accomplished teachers.
The professionalization of teaching begins with recruitment efforts that restore prestige and financial incentives to education careers, including adequate entry-level salaries and service scholarships that cover high-quality teacher education programs.
Ø Teaching Service Scholarships: Barack Obama will create substantial, sustained Teaching Service Scholarships that completely cover training costs in high-quality teacher preparation or alternative certification programs at the undergraduate or graduate level for those who are willing to teach in a high-need field or location for at least four years. The North Carolina Teaching Fellows program has produced more than 8,000 teachers for the state’s schools since it began in 1986, many of whom are members of underrepresented minority groups and prepared to teach in high-need fields like science and math. An evaluation following fellows over seven years found that 75 percent were still teaching in the public schools in the state, and many of the remainder had advanced to educational leadership positions in schools or districts.
Some Teaching Service Scholarships will be targeted to high-ability candidates who might not otherwise enter teacher preparation and the incentives will also be used proactively to recruit candidates to the fields and locations where they are needed. Nearly all of the vacancies currently filled with emergency teachers could be filled with talented, well-prepared teachers with 40,000 service scholarships of up to $25,000 each. The scholarships will cover four years of undergraduate or two years of graduate teacher education, including high-quality alternative programs for mid-career recruits in exchange for teaching for at least four years in high-need field or location. The scholarships will be allocated on the basis of academic merit and other indicators of potential success in teaching and will be targeted to areas of teaching shortage as defined nationally and by individual states.
If students are expected to achieve 21st-century learning standards, we can expect no less from their teachers. Yet teachers’ access to knowledge through preparation and professional development is more haphazard in the United States than in most other industrialized countries. Preparation programs range from excellent to extremely weak, and state regulatory systems are uneven across the country.
Ø Performance-Based Teacher Education: Most professions besides teaching require preparation programs to be accredited, and use the accrediting process to leverage quality. Professional accreditation in teaching is voluntary in most states, so there is no guarantee of quality. Obama will change this by requiring professional accreditation of all programs preparing teachers, with a focus on evidence regarding how well teachers are prepared. In order to help identify the most successful programs, colleges of education and alternative licensure programs will track their graduates’ entry and retention in teaching and their contributions to growth in student learning. Challenge grants will encourage the adoption of successful practices across the entire enterprise of teacher preparation.
Teacher preparation programs will be further strengthened if they are guided by a high-quality, nationally-available teacher performance assessment that measures actual teaching skill in content areas. Barack Obama will fund the development of such an assessment, which, unlike current examinations used for licensing, will do more than merely measure basic skills and subject matter knowledge via paper-and-pencil tests. It will collect evidence about how prospective teachers plan and teach in the classroom, evaluate student work, and adapt their teaching to student learning needs. The high-quality, nationally-available teacher performance assessment will:
· Incorporate challenging teaching standards.
· Require evidence of teacher performance and outcomes in promoting student learning.
· Provide data that can be used for the accreditation process.
· Facilitate teacher mobility across states, so that teachers can easily move from states with surpluses to those with shortages.
Ø Professional Development Schools: Professional Development Schools enable teachers to learn from expert practitioners in the field. Like teaching hospitals in medicine, Professional Development Schools partner universities with school sites that exhibit state-of-the-art practice and train new teachers in the classrooms of expert teachers while they are completing coursework. These schools also engage in intensive professional learning for veteran teachers and may become hubs of professional development for their school districts. Many of these new models are located in urban school districts, creating a pipeline of teachers well-prepared to teach in cities. Highly-developed models have been found to increase teacher effectiveness and raise student achievement. Barack Obama will provide $100 million to stimulate teacher education reforms built on school-university partnerships.
Ø High Quality Preparation for High-Need Districts: In the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has authored legislation to create Teaching Residency Programs to prepare teachers to work in high-need districts. These school-university partnerships, such as the Chicago Academy for Urban School Leadership, have strong track records of recruiting, training and supporting high-quality teachers and can provide a pipeline of teachers to high-need districts and support them in innovative ways. In the Teacher Residency Program, each participating beginning teacher:
· Receives a living stipend or salary for a year-long residency training program, which is paid back through a three-year service requirement in the district.
· Learns from a trained, experienced, expert mentor working in a school designed to offer high-quality instruction to high-need students.
· Engages in rigorous graduate level coursework from a partnering university, earns a master’s degree, and teaching certification.
· Acquires knowledge of planning, content, student learning, management of the classroom environment, and professional responsibilities.
· Continues to receive mentoring, professional development, and coaching support during the first two years of teaching.
As president, Obama will expand the number of Teacher Residency Programs by providing funding for 200 new programs that would each serve an average of 150 candidates each year. Each year, Obama’s plan will supply 30,000 exceptionally well-prepared recruits to high-need schools to provide long-term commitment and leadership in these districts.
Retention is as important as recruitment to addressing the teaching shortage. With 30 percent of new teachers leaving within five years – and a higher percentage in urban areas – solving the retention crisis is absolutely critical. Beginning teachers need mentoring and support, and accomplished veteran teachers need opportunities for career advancement and recognition. Teacher attrition is extremely costly both in terms of district costs for recruitment, selection and training and in terms of lost student gains. Teachers become noticeably more effective after their third year in the classroom, the point at which far too many have already left, only to be replaced by other novices Estimates of the annual cost of teacher attrition exceed $2 billion nationally. Two recent analyses of a large-scale national teacher survey revealed that, in addition to adequate salaries and working conditions, the most important predictors of teachers’ ongoing commitment to the profession are the extent of their preparation and the quality of the mentoring and support they receive.
Ø Mentoring: In places like California that have funded mentoring, beginning teacher attrition has fallen: generally, first year teachers who are mentored effectively leave at rates of no more than five percent. Barack Obama’s Career Ladder Initiative will provide federal resources to states and districts to leverage state efforts to create strong mentoring that supports beginning teachers. Obama will provide $1 billion in funding for grants to create mentoring programs and reward veteran teaches for becoming mentors. The program will:
· Select mentors based on demonstrated teaching skill and effectiveness.
· Work in the same subject area as those that they are assisting.
· Visit, observe and consult with the beginning teachers at least weekly.
· Meet regularly to develop their skills as mentors and to share resources and ideas.
· Receive relief from teaching duties as a result of such additional responsibilities.
· Provide underperforming teachers with individual help and support. If after receiving intensive assistance, they are still underperforming, the district will find a quick and fair way to put another teacher in that classroom, as Peer Assistance and Review programs developed by professional teachers’ associations and school boards in a number of districts have shown how to do.
Ø Paid Common Planning Time: Students do better when teachers get time to collaborate to share best practices, review student work and plan curriculum and lessons together, research shows. Studies also show that collaboration and paid planning time are key to retaining good teachers. Obama’s plan will include incentives for redesigning schools so that they are organized for teacher learning, and funding for paid common planning and professional learning time.
Existing compensation systems places classroom teaching at the bottom, provides teachers with little opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with others and requires teachers to leave the classroom if they want greater responsibility or substantially higher pay. Barack Obama believes we need a different career continuum, one that places teaching at the top; creates a career progression that supports teachers as they become increasingly expert, and provide additional coaching and professional development for teachers to develop their skills; and provides special supports for teachers in need of more intensive assistance.
In order to honor our students’ needs and our educators’ hard work, we must modernize the teaching profession to ensure adequate support, pay and professional accountability. Teachers should be better compensated, with both a more competitive base salary for well-prepared and successful teachers and professional compensation systems designed with the help and agreement of teachers’ organizations. Compensation systems can provide salary incentives for demonstrated knowledge, skill and expertise that move the mission of the school forward and reward excellent teachers for continuing to teach.
Career Ladder Initiative
Barack Obama’s Career Ladder Initiative will provide funding to districts that are prepared, with the participation of their teachers’ associations, to create opportunities for high-achieving veteran teachers to gain additional compensation for serving as mentors and leading curriculum planning, professional development and school reform efforts. Participating districts will design programs that include equitable and competitive salaries, with compensation systems that recognize knowledge, skills and accomplishment in the classroom as well as willingness to provide leadership in hard-to-staff locations. Where districts are addressing shortages in high-need schools, they will need to address the teaching conditions in those schools – ensuring strong administrative leadership; reasonable class sizes; and the necessary books, materials, and equipment to support learning.
Career ladder programs will include differentiated supports and compensation in ways that recognize and develop growing expertise. For example:
Ø Support for Beginners: As beginning teachers are mentored in their early years, those who successfully complete an induction program and demonstrate their competence will have the ability to move from a “novice” level of teaching to a “professional” status, which is accompanied by the award of earned tenure and increased compensation.
Ø Opportunities for Advancement: As teachers gain expertise, they should have the opportunity to move into leadership roles associated with their knowledge and skills. In addition to the tremendous benefits for beginning teachers, for example, mentoring programs also offer career advancement opportunities for teachers. The opportunity to mentor and coach other teachers creates an incentive for expert veterans to remain in teaching as they gain from both learning from and sharing with their colleagues. Cincinnati, Rochester and Denver among other districts, have developed career ladders that create opportunities for advancement for expert teachers, with mentoring being one of the differentiated responsibilities available to accomplished teachers.
Ø Professional Compensation: Like promising local initiatives in Denver and Cincinnati, compensation systems that reward teachers for deep knowledge of subjects, additional skills for meeting special kinds of student and school needs (for example special education knowledge or bilingual language abilities), high levels of performance measured against professional teaching standards (such as National Board certification and local standards-based assessments), and a variety of contributions to student learning can encourage teachers to continue to acquire needed skills, enhance the expertise available within schools and improve learning for many traditionally under-served student groups. In these systems, multiple indicators of teaching quality are used to capture teachers’ contributions to their own student’s learning growth and to the school as a whole, as well as their work with parents and families.
As important as recognition and financial rewards for teachers are the opportunities that career ladders provide for teachers to contribute to the improvement of education in their school and district. This approach to compensation innovation is more productive than annual bonuses for a handful of teachers, as it has positive spillover effects for both individual and organizational improvement, motivation and change. Beginning teachers appreciate the opportunities to be mentored as they start their careers. Veteran teachers appreciate the opportunity to take on advanced roles, coach others and contribute to school reform as they move up the career ladder. The school benefits as it becomes organized to take advantage of the knowledge of accomplished teachers and to incorporate professional learning at every stage of the continuum, ending the teacher isolation that has impaired the improvement of teaching in many schools.
IV. SUPPORTING STRONG SCHOOL LEADERS
The quality of a school’s principal is the second most important determinant of student achievement, and the single most important determinant of whether teachers stay in a particular school. Yet national studies suggest that there is a growing shortage of well-prepared principals even while the demands of the principalship are growing. School leaders today need not only to manage schools, they need to develop high-quality instruction and professional development and redesign school organizations so that they better support student and teacher learning. Obama will create a challenge grant program for states and districts in order to:
Ø Develop an Infrastructure for Professional Development: Creating and sustaining high-quality leadership development requires a comprehensive plan to enable principals to develop the sophisticated skills they need and ongoing financial support. Barack Obama will provide funding for the creation or enhancement of state leadership academies. These academies, located in universities, state agencies or free-standing organizations will sponsor, host and coordinate professional development opportunities for educational leaders in their respective states. In addition, the academies will serve as centers where each state’s top educational leaders can gather to share practices and help create the professional development requirements and offerings in their states.
Obama’s plan will also support research about the effectiveness of these various approaches to principal training so that future professional development investments can be guided by evidence about what best supports principals’ in learning essential practices and becoming effective at guiding high-performing school organizations.
Ø Supporting a Continuum of Professional Development: Barack Obama will provide states with funding and guidance to develop multi-tiered credentialing systems that encourage principals to grow professionally over the course of their careers, and particularly within their first few years on the job, when they are most open to and in need of professional development. Some states have already developed exemplary multi-tiered credentialing systems that the federal government can look toward for best practices to promote in other states.
Delaware, for example, has created a three-tiered licensing system, which requires new principals to receive 30 hours per year of mentoring for three years, with each year focusing on different components of Delaware’s standards for principals. A state-funded Principal’s Academy helps to implement the state’s mentoring program, and the Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL), housed at the University of Delaware, also offers mentoring for new principals and other professional development programs for school leaders.
V. MAKE SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION A NATIONAL PRIORITY
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first orbiting launch into space. In 1957, the beginning of the space age sparked an explosion of the attention to the development of American scientists who would work to further America’s place as a leader in the sciences and the global economy. And yet, fifty years after Sputnik, science and math education is in a crisis in all American schools. As the Gathering Storm report concluded, “danger exists that Americans may not know enough about science, technology, or mathematics to contribute significantly to, or fully benefit from, the knowledge-based economy that is already taking shape around us.” For example:
Ø In 2003, the Program in International Student Assessment found that U.S. 15 year olds ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science.
Ø Almost 30 percent of students in their first year of college are forced to take remedial science and math classes because they are not prepared for college-level classes.
Ø A recent report shows that of students entering college with plans to major in science or engineering, less than 25 percent of underrepresented minorities graduate with a degree in that field within six years. In 2000, minorities received only 14 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and mathematics.
Ø While employment in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields increased between 1995 and 2004 by 23 percent, the share of higher education degrees in STEM fields fell from 32 percent to 27 percent and there were declines in the number of students earning degrees in engineering.
These statistics are dismal. In the 21st Century, everyone needs to know science and math, not only to find employment, but also to be healthy and well-informed citizens. Moreover, over 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations are dependent upon a knowledge base in science and math. Barack Obama will make math and science education a national priority, and provide our schools with the tools to educate 21st-Century learners.
Ø Recruit High-Quality Math and Science Teachers: Barack Obama’s Teaching Service Scholarship program will prioritize recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Additionally, Obama’s Teacher Residency Program can also supply teachers in these high-needs subject areas. Obama’s plan to stimulate Professional Development Schools can help new science and math teachers, or veteran teacher needing to hone their skills, learn from professionals in the field. Programs such as New York City’s “Math for America” help build a community of excellent teachers to serve in these high-needs areas.
Ø Enhanced Science Instruction: Science is often a low priority in the school program, particularly at the elementary level. A number of recent reports indicate that the strictures of NCLB are correlated with a further reduction in the amount of time spent on science and other subjects in many schools. Barack Obama will work with governors to create flexible and workable systems for the states to achieve the goal of ensuring all children have access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels. Obama will also support state efforts to make science education a priority at the pre-K level. The Science in Elementary program in Pennsylvania is an example of a state taking steps to encourage inquiry based science state-wide, and has offered materials and professional development to one to three elementary schools from every district in the state.
Ø Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments: Assessments should reflect the range of knowledge and skills students should acquire. Science assessments need to do more than test facts and concepts. They need to use a range of measures to test inquiry and higher order thinking skills including inference, logic, data analysis and interpretation, forming questions, and communication. High-performing states like Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, use an assessment that calls for students to design and conduct investigations, analyze and present data, write up and defend results. Barack Obama will work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure these skills.
VI. HELPING OUR MOST AT-RISK CHILDREN SUCCEED IN SCHOOL
Additional Learning Time
The typical school day is a throwback to America’s agricultural era and is not on par with that of other developed countries around the world. We expect students to learn more today than ever before and many experts agree that additional learning time, particularly for struggling students, is important to gaining knowledge and skills for the 21st Century. Longer school days or longer school years can help provide additional learning time for students to close the achievement gap. Barack Obama will create a $200 million grant program for states and districts that want to provide additional learning time for students in need.
Reduce the High School Dropout Rate
Only 70 percent of U.S. high school students graduate with a diploma. African American and Latino students are significantly less likely to graduate than white students. Today, dropouts are twice as likely to be unemployed, and for those who work, pay is low, advancement limited and health insurance less available.
Ø Success in the Middle: The dropout problem begins well before high school. The middle grades (grades 5, 6, 7, 8) are a crucial, but often overlooked, segment of the educational pipeline. Middle school students must gain skills in reading, mathematics, and other subjects to be successful in the rigorous high school coursework that follows. Early indicators can reveal students that need the most help. Sixth-grade students who do not attend school regularly, who undergo frequent disciplinary actions, or who fail mathematics or English have only a 10 percent chance of graduating high school on time,. The eighth-grade gap in NAEP mathematics scores between white and Hispanic students was as wide in 2007 as in 1990. Without effective interventions and supports, at-risk sixth-grade students are at risk of becoming tenth-grade dropouts.
As president, Barack Obama will address these risks at the appropriate time, rather than waiting for ninth-grade to start taking action. In the U.S. Senate, Obama has introduced the “Success in the Middle Act,” which will provide federal support to improve the education of middle grades students in low-performing schools by:
· Requiring states to develop a detailed plan to improve middle school student achievement.
· Developing and utilizing early identification data systems to identify those students most at-risk of dropping out.
· Investing in proven strategies such as: (1) providing professional development and coaching to school leaders, teachers and other school personnel in addressing the needs of diverse learners and in using challenging and relevant research-based best practices and curriculum; and (2) developing and implementing comprehensive, school-wide improvement efforts and implementing student supports such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction and extended learning time that enables all students to stay on the path to graduation.
Ø Redesigned Schools: Many schools have been redesigning the way the operate so that they are more successful in teaching all students, by rethinking the factory-model that we inherited from reforms a century ago and creating schools that allow teachers to work in teams, personalize instruction for students and collaborate together to create a more rigorous and relevant curriculum. These efforts include the development of small schools and small learning communities in secondary schools. Well-designed models have improved school safety, increased attendance and sharply reduced dropouts. Obama will support federal efforts to continue to encourage schools to organize themselves for greater success by developing stronger relationships among adults and students, a more engaging curriculum, more adaptive teaching, and more opportunities for teachers to plan and learn together.
Ø Competitive Grants for Evidence-Based Models to Help Students Graduate: Studies show that a majority of students who leave high school without a diploma continue to pursue the goal of high school graduation. Unfortunately, states and districts lack the resources to make substantial investments in alternative education pathways. Non-profit and community-based organizations have tried to fill in the gap, but they lack substantial resources. As president, Barack Obama will establish a competitive grant process open to existing or proposed public/private partnerships or entities that are pursuing evidence-based models that work – such as Diploma Plus or Teacher Advisor programs. These grants will decrease the dropout rate by increasing the capacity of state and district leaders as well as outside leaders – foundations, politicians, entrepreneurs, and community leaders – to collaborate on improving graduation rates.
Close the Achievement Gap
Ø Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Differences in summer learning opportunities contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling minority and poor students from their middle-class peers. Barack Obama’s “STEP UP” plan, which was recently signed into law, addresses the grade school achievement gaps by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations.
Ø Support College Outreach Programs: Barack Obama supports programs like GEAR UP, TRIO and Upward Bound to encourage more young people from low-income families to consider and prepare for college.
Ø Support English Language Learners: Barack Obama supports transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by supporting and funding English Language Learner (ELL) classes. He will support development of appropriate assessments for ELL students, monitor the progress of students learning English and hold schools accountable for making sure these students complete school
Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunities
Expanding access to high-quality afterschool programs will help children learn and strengthen a broad range of skills and provide relief to working parents who have to juggle child care and work responsibilities. Barack Obama will double funding for the main federal support for afterschool programs, the 21st Century Learning Centers program, to serve one million more children each year. Obama will include measures to maximize performance and effectiveness across grantees nationwide.
Promote Safe Schools
A lack of student discipline is a leading challenge facing many public schools. Negative and reactive school management practices, such as zero tolerance policies, are ineffective and often counterproductive. Barack Obama will promote a more effective and just method of addressing behavioral problems in schools. Obama will expand an innovative program, already being used in states like Illinois, that teaches students about positive behavior and expects the adults in our schools to set the same high standards for behavior as they do for achievement. Known as “Positive Behavior Support” (PBS), this system is designed to deal with discipline problems in a research-based, experimentally-verified way, based on one simple premise: stop problem behavior before it starts. In PBS schools, there are adult school-wide agreements to teach behavior, with ways to support positive behavior when it occurs. In any given school, the problem might be a general lack of discipline, problems with bullying or school violence or a loss of instructional time because of behavioral issues. In PBS schools, the adults act together to set common expectations, not just for learning, but for the behaviors that support learning. These schools work to stop problem behavior before it starts, using research-validated practices. As a result, students learn more. In the U.S. Senate, Obama has been a leading advocate for this approach, introducing the “Positive Behavior for Effective Schools Act” to make PBS an allowable use of funds under No Child Left Behind.
VII. INVEST IN WHAT WORKS
We currently make inadequate investments into researching and developing better educational tools and methods. While we spend roughly $400 billion annually in this country on public education, we spend less than seven tenths of one percent of that – $260 million – figuring out what actually works. By comparison, the Department of Defense spends roughly ten percent of its annual budget on research and development (R&D). And the National Institutes for Health spends roughly 100 times the amount we spend on educational R&D. Those investments are what give America the most advanced military and medical systems in the world.
As president, Barack Obama will double our investment in early education and educational R&D by the end of his first term in office. Part of this investment will involve an R&D program for improving science education. This new program will build knowledge about strategies and mechanism that can bring lasting improvements to science and math and technology education.
Obama believes that we’re not going to solve our education problems just by throwing money at them; we have to make smart investments in innovating long-term solutions and developing a deep knowledge of what works. He will also ensure that the results of this research are disseminated and easily accessible to the public.
VIII. ENLIST PARENTS AND COMMUNITIES TO SUPPORT TEACHING AND LEARNING
Barack Obama will call on parents, families, and schools to work together and take responsibility for instilling in young people our best shared values like honesty, hard work and preparation for good citizenship. A society has not succeeded if we prepare our young people for academic success but not developed their values and readiness for responsible citizenship. Obama’s plan calls for:
Clear and high expectations. Every school receiving funding under this plan is required to lay out clear and high expectations for student behavior and shared values, agreed on by the school’s educators and parents. This plan will support summer planning time for teachers to design and clarify behavioral expectations or receive training in models driving positive student behavior schoolwide.
School-family contracts. The Obama plan will encourage schools and parents to work together to establish a school-family contract laying out expectations for student attendance, behavior, and homework. These contracts would be provided to families in their native language when possible and would include information on tutoring, academic support, and public school choice options for students.
Parental and family responsibility. Barack Obama will call on parents to turn off the TV and video games, make sure their children are getting their homework done and work to take a greater stake in their child’s education both in and outside of school.
Service. All students in grant recipient districts will be expected to engage in some form of community service.
IX. A COMMITMENT TO FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY
Barack Obama’s early education and K-12 plan package costs about $18 billion per year. He will maintain fiscal responsibility and prevent any increase in the deficit by offsetting cuts and revenue sources in other parts of the government. The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years, using purchase cards and the negotiating power of the government to reduce costs of standardized procurement, auctioning surplus federal property, and reducing the erroneous payments identified by the Government Accountability Office, and closing the CEO pay deductibility loophole. The rest of the plan will be funded using a small portion of the savings associated with fighting the war in Iraq.