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Three Steps To Understanding Obama-Clinton

The most thought-provoking education politics story of the holiday season wasn't Sam Dillon's pre-Xmas piece in the Times (Democrats Make Bush School Act an Election Issue), though the piece does include some great quotes about how NCLB has come to be so widely hated in Democratic circles and details news you read here first about Ted Kennedy's efforts to close the rifts among Democrats over the law.   

23coverwebFor something even more insightful, I'd point you to Matt Bai's 12/23 Times Magazine article about the Clinton campaign (The Clinton Referendum), which does a better job than most in explaining the confusing way in which Clinton has campaigned to the left of Obama on education issues even though she -- and her husband before her -- are positioned to the right (aka center) of him on pretty much every other issue (Iraq, etc.). 

Of course, Clinton is in reality much more centrist on education issues than she currently looks, in order to win teacher and union support, and Obama isn't so "reform-minded" as some of his supporters would like to think.   Perhaps the best job of parsing Obama's candidacy -- which is not really about his positions but rather about his race, his religion, and age -- comes from Andrew Sullivan's article in The Atlantic (Goodbye to All That).
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Alex,

Did you see Michelle Obama condemning NCLB as strangling public schools with standardized testing? It wasn't Clintonesqe. She's not buying any of that testing as a civil rights effort. And Barack is smart enough to know that the only way to get the arts and music back in urban schools is to kill the NCLB approach.

Sherman Dorn is right about the two main stories, about the evidence that NCLB wasn't worth it and the collapse of reauthorization, but I question his interpretation of education becoming a non-issue in presidential politics. Even if you don't actually read the research that shows the underwhelming positive results of NCLB (and ignore the negative results of the law), the first thing that jumps out from the polling data is that the citizens have rejected NCLB. The candidates have been hearing the peoples' complaints. Had congress been listening to parents and teachers in 2002, it would have taken a completely different approach. Obama, for instance seeks to invest 2/3rds of his 18 billion dollar education plan in early childhood. His Marshall Plan for urban schools sounds a lot like the approach of the John Hopkins anti-dropout inititiative and Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge. After being a community activist, he wouldn't buy the blind horse that was foisted off on "experts" who had no experience with the poor children of color that NCLB was supposed to help.

My prediction for 08 and 09 is that the dog that didn't bark from 03 to 07 will start. Polls show that among teachers, who once supported NCLB, the law is about as popular as Bush and the war. I just read Pearlstein's Tested and I kept asking why the teachers didn't rebel? I knew the answer of course. We continually grasp at any straws that might benefit our kids. And the policies kept getting incrementally more destructive, so there never was a point where it was obvious that civil disobediance was a moral imperative. Then dillusioned and exhausted teachers resigned individually. How many times have we read about or witnessed the same pattern where scores go up but conflicted and exhausted teachers - after being praised as heroes - retire or leave urban education? Would any of those teachers allow themselves to get fooled again?

Rather than continuing to hang separately, teachers are ready to start hanging together. After all, its rank and file members who have forced their unions to resist NCLB. If the Dems tried to continue the NCLB approach to accountability for another five years, most of us wouldn't be able to take it. So why not risk our jobs standing up for our students?

Changing the subject, I don't know the personalites but if Obama does as well as predicted in the first three primaries, would Richardson face an obvious opportunity? By throw his support behind Obama in time for Nevada and California, and Richardson would become a major player.

DT

Alex,

Did you see Michelle Obama condemning NCLB as strangling public schools with standardized testing? It wasn't Clintonesqe. She's not buying any of that testing as a civil rights effort. And Barack is smart enough to know that the only way to get the arts and music back in urban schools is to kill the NCLB approach.

Sherman Dorn is right about the two main stories, about the evidence that NCLB wasn't worth it and the collapse of reauthorization, but I question his interpretation of education becoming a non-issue in presidential politics. Even if you don't actually read the research that shows the underwhelming positive results of NCLB (and ignore the negative results of the law), the first thing that jumps out from the polling data is that the citizens have rejected NCLB. The candidates have been hearing the peoples' complaints. Had congress been listening to parents and teachers in 2002, it would have taken a completely different approach. Obama, for instance seeks to invest 2/3rds of his 18 billion dollar education plan in early childhood. His Marshall Plan for urban schools sounds a lot like the approach of the John Hopkins anti-dropout inititiative and Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge. After being a community activist, he wouldn't buy the blind horse that was foisted off on "experts" who had no experience with the poor children of color that NCLB was supposed to help.

My prediction for 08 and 09 is that the dog that didn't bark from 03 to 07 will start. Polls show that among teachers, who once supported NCLB, the law is about as popular as Bush and the war. I just read Pearlstein's Tested and I kept asking why the teachers didn't rebel? I knew the answer of course. We continually grasp at any straws that might benefit our kids. And the policies kept getting incrementally more destructive, so there never was a point where it was obvious that civil disobediance was a moral imperative. Then dillusioned and exhausted teachers resigned individually. How many times have we read about or witnessed the same pattern where scores go up but conflicted and exhausted teachers - after being praised as heroes - retire or leave urban education? Would any of those teachers allow themselves to get fooled again?

Rather than continuing to hang separately, teachers are ready to start hanging together. After all, its rank and file members who have forced their unions to resist NCLB. If the Dems tried to continue the NCLB approach to accountability for another five years, most of us wouldn't be able to take it. So why not risk our jobs standing up for our students?

Changing the subject, I don't know the personalites but if Obama does as well as predicted in the first three primaries, would Richardson face an obvious opportunity? By throw his support behind Obama in time for Nevada and California, and Richardson would become a major player.

DT

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