Great Launch … But Let’s Be Clear About ED in 08

We had a really great time this afternoon in Columbia, SC, at the national launch of the ED in 08 campaign.

More than 100 folks from Hopkins Elementary School – students, teachers and parents – showed up and wore ED in 08 T-shirts. It was gratifying to see these young people, because they are what this campaign is really all about. (I’ll post some pictures shortly.)

We have already gotten a lot of coverage from the news media. (You can see some of it in the Latest News.) As a result, people are posting comments on the blog, and the dialogue we want to have is starting.

But a couple of misperceptions have arisen, and I want to address them right now. It’s really important that you understand what we are about and what we really want. We are trying to pull together every American who wants to do something positive about education and get them involved in a dialogue and get the presidential candidates to show real leadership on this issue.

Some of the news coverage used loaded terminology that we don’t use and we don’t agree with. When that happens, it’s easy for anyone to read and get the wrong idea about our positions.

Let me give you two examples:

  • “National curriculum” – Somebody wrote that we are calling for that. Let’s be clear: Strong American Schools and the ED in 08 campaign are not calling for a national curriculum, period.
  • “Merit pay” – Somebody said we want that. That’s wrong. We are not pushing some narrow merit pay scheme. The bottom line is … good teaching, effective teaching. 

What we want is to find a way to focus on good teaching. That is the outcome that matters. Good teaching … how do we value it … how do we support it … and how we reward it so we can get more of it.

There are a lot of ways to achieve it that involve teachers that those old-fashioned merit pay schemes did not. But let’s not lose sight of the main thing here: The focus should be on effective teaching.

Conversations like the one we envision on education – conversations that include everybody who cares – are going to be messy. Democracy is kind of like that. But we need everybody involved. We want lots of points of view on how to accomplish these goals. And we promise to contribute lots of examples of what this can look like down the road.

I know this is long for a blog post, but it’s important. If you really want to know what we are about, I encourage you to read our Web site, download our Policy Primer and ask us questions.


Posted by Roy Romer at 04/25/2007 04:25:02 PM | 

I heard an interview with Melinda Gates on NPR yesterday about the launch of the program. I appreciate the effort to start a national dialogue. However, so much is not defined. For instance, what is effective teaching? What is the effect you want? How do you measure it? The current method for assessing teacher performance is the use of standardized testing for students. If students perform well on the test, the teacher is considered effective. How do teachers achieve improvements on standardized tests. First, they review, or cram, the week before the test. Second, they teach them how to take the test. What have students learned? How to take a test and whatever content was required to get them through the test. I'm not saying this is the fault of teachers. With all that is at stake based on the results of standardized testing, schools have adapted to the political pressure to perform on the test. This is not effective teaching. Good teachers are being forced to teach badly. Students continue to learn that only answers matter, not critical thinking. Methods of teaching that involve in-depth coverage of a subject are more difficult to assess. The emphasis is not on understanding but on coverage: How much of the material can we cover because the state says we have to cover it? The students learn the dates of historical events, which have no meaning to their lives, but not the reasons for those events. Ms. Gates pointed out that students are dropping out because they are bored. Who wouldn't be when teaching has been reduced to rote memorization and passing tests? How many of us rely on rote memorization to get through the day in our jobs? Many of us solve problems, small and large, in our daily work rather than memorize dates, numbers, or learn mathematical formulas that relate to nothing we do. Problem solving doesn't assess well because it is more difficult to quantify, but it is one way to keep students interested and really learn something. Unlike any other profession, politicians and business leaders have taken control of the education system. Educators have little say. Teachers are not regarded as professionals. Funding has become the means for the federal government to control education and for a temporary administration to funnel money where they want it.
Posted by: Michael Walker ( Email | Visit ) at 4/26/2007 6:54 AM

This is an odd campaign. You have articulated three issue positions but you are unwilling to stand by any of them. I have read all of the policy papers available on your site and the best way to figure out what you support appears to be to look for a sentence where you say "We are not for..." You say that you are not for merit pay, you are not for a national curriculum, and you are not for longer school hours but that is the best way to summarize your three positions. You should either quit mincing words about the description of your positions and stick with them or not advance any positions. The idea that you can articulate some bland goals, imply that specific policy options would help reach those goals, and then deny that you are advocating those options is silly and unhelpful.
Posted by: Matt Grossmann ( Email ) at 4/25/2007 10:20 PM

Roy, I am a current classroom teacher who started a blog a few weeks ago with a similar intent to this campaign -- to bring more focus on education in the 2008 campaign and challenge our citizens and candidates to take a bigger interest in what should be our most important domestic policy issue. Slowly I have been featuring each candidates posted stance on education, each with far less to say than I would have hoped. Although with far less experience and resources than this campaign, I look forward to continuing to blog on my site as well as keeping up to date with this site. Educational quality and the inequities that exist within American education are issues that must be addressed and I am extremely excited about the attention the names and resources associated with this project will bring.
Posted by: EdPolicy08 ( Email | Visit ) at 4/25/2007 10:48 PM

Some newspapers/reporters/editors take their job of reporting too far into the area of explaining and put their own words into the mouths of the newsmakers. You wouldn't have needed to clarify those points if the media had done its job properly. Sensationalism sells more than truth does, so that is why they do it, even though truth is really their charter. Education Reform Campaign in 2008 Presidential Election NewsBlaze and The Student Operated Press support Strong Schools and the work of The Gates Foundation.
Posted by: Daily News ( Email | Visit ) at 4/25/2007 11:23 PM

The NYTimes reported that you won't back programs that expand parent education options, i.e., vouchers and charters. True? Why? Why not?
Posted by: George Mitchell ( Email ) at 4/26/2007 11:56 AM

If "Ed in 08" is unwilling show leadership and to make a definitive stance about what should be done to improve our children's education, why do you think that any political candidate would be willing to do so?
Posted by: Erin Johnson ( Email ) at 4/26/2007 12:33 PM

Thank you for starting this campaign to raise awareness of the problems and challenges our public education system is facing every day. As a former member of a local board of education I am very familiar with the difficult issues plaguing our public education system and the rampant apathy of many communities and yes, even parents who believe that everything is just fine. Helping everybody understand that the way we educate our children, our future, is not what it should be and starting serious, widely based discussion will afford our best opportunity to create a better way.
Posted by: Steve Warstler ( Email ) at 4/26/2007 2:07 PM

George is correct above. The ED in 08 campaign does not take a position on vouchers and charters, either for or against. We are neither endorsing nor opposing such policies. Our position is laid out in some detail in our FAQ section (
Posted by: ( Email ) at 4/26/2007 2:10 PM

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