Friday, June 29, 2007

Education is Key To Ending Poverty

Yesterday I talked about how important strong K-12 schools are for getting kids college-ready. But why college ready? Because jobs that pay enough to support a family but don't require a bachelor's degree now demand the same level of preparation that college demands.

Last night during the All-American Presidential Forum at Howard University, presidential candidates were asked about the connection between education and poverty.  It was a great question, because we know that Americans living in poverty are much more likely to have dropped out of high school, and that dropouts have far lower earnings over their lifetime.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

College – What’s the Real Problem?

My wife and I have seven children and 18 grandchildren, so we know the cost of college can do to a family’s budget. And I appreciate some of the proposals put forth recently to make it easier for low-income students to have a chance to go to college.

But I have to tell you, I think those proposals overlook a very glaring problem for all college-bound students – They’re not ready.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Iowa Is Ready for ED

Our state launch in Des Moines, Iowa, yesterday drew a really good turnout – from the news media, bloggers and, of course, a bunch of wonderful lively young students who took a break from summer vacation to join us.

Rather than have me tell you about it, you can watch two 10-minute videos from the event on the ED in 08 YouTube site. (The videos come from IowaPoliticsDotCom. We thank them for being there.)

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Finding Dollars to Do Right by Students

I’ve written a lot about all the benefits for our young students of expanding the amount of time they have for learning in school. (See my May 14, May 15 and June 14 blog posts.) More time and support for learning is one of the priorities of the ED in 08 campaign.

Now, I get asked about who would pay for this extra learning time, and that’s a fair question. We’re not here to dictate all the answers, but we do have some suggestions. (I always encourage your thoughts on these ideas.)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Make Your Voice Heard – Ask a Question

We have more presidential candidates and more presidential debates going on in 2007 than at any time I can remember. And we are working hard to get the moderators of these debates to ask questions about America’s schools and get the candidates to answer them.

Some of these debate questioners and sponsors are inviting people to send in questions. Let me encourage you to do that. I’ve been submitting questions to whomever and whenever I can.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Iowa-Bound: A Snapshot of Our Schools

We head out to Iowa tomorrow to launch the ED in 08 campaign on the ground there. This will be the third state (after South Carolina and New Hampshire) where we have established a presence.

I don’t mean to pick on Iowa, or any other state, but it does illustrate the problems we are trying to shine a light on – which is that we are not doing right by our young students.

According to Iowa’s own standards, 79 percent of fourth graders are proficient in math. On the National Assessment of Education Progress test, however, only 37 percent rate as proficient.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gone to LA; Back on Monday

I’m on my way to Los Angeles to speak to the annual gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. I’ll return on Monday.

In the meantime, here are two pieces I saw this week that I thought were pretty interesting.

Salary system luring faculty: Applications are up with DPS's incentive strategy (Denver Post)

Teacher Turnover Costs Systems Millions, Study Projects (Washington Post)

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Life for Dropouts in the Real World

Some of my readers might think I sometimes overdo it in this space when I throw out a lot of statistics. I’ll accept that judgment and just say I’m trying to build a foundation of credibility for the message that we have a problem with our American schools and we have got to act.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Good Jobs Will Be Waiting. It May Be A Long Wait.

At ED in 08, we are all about creating schools that will prepare America’s children for college, for work and for life.

While we are totally focused on the children, we recognize other realities: These children are our future, too. They will pay the taxes to support Social Security, for instance.

And, of course, they will fill the jobs that we want our economy to create. It seems that those jobs require higher skills every day. Just ask any parent.Keep Reading...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Grades Are In - American Taxpayers Give Schools a 'C'

Every student in America can sympathize with our schools today. Report cards came out, and while we're not looking at Ds and Fs, the news certainly could have been better.

ETS, the people who do the SAT college entrance examinations, released poll results today that shows that 44 percent of adults in the U.S. gave our schools a "C".

Now, a "C" isn't flunking, but how many parents are satisfied with just average? I speak as a parent myself when I say, that's just not good enough.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Teacher Pay Experiments Can Work … If Teachers Help Develop

I was struck by a piece in the New York Times today that talks about different ways that school systems are finding to pay teachers more. 

A consensus is building across the political spectrum that rewarding teachers with bonuses or raises for improving student achievement, working in lower income schools or teaching subjects that are hard to staff can energize veteran teachers and attract bright rookies to the profession.
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Friday, June 15, 2007

USA Today: ‘States Game the System’

An editorial in today’s USA Today talks about how states have adopted easy achievement tests to make themselves look good for the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

When students in most states take the national achievement test, they don’t look nearly as good.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Do longer hours equal more learning?

The Christian Science Monitor asked that question in a headline today.

I won't tease you. The answer is 'Yes' - provided you plan right and get buy-in from parents, teachers and the community. (It's true some students don't like it, but an awful lot do.)

This experiment involving 10 schools in Massachusetts has specific lessons for every school district trying to help our young students prepare themselves for college, for work and for life.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Two Clippings Worth Reading

We read a lot over here at ED in 08 about efforts local school districts and states are trying out to solve some of the problems with schools.

From time to time, I plan to point them out to you and see what you think. Drop me a line or leave a comment below.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

‘Fixing D.C. Schools’ … And All the Rest, Too

The new mayor of Washington, DC, is in the process of taking control of the public schools in the nation’s capital. That seems to have inspired The Washington Post to launch an ambitious series of stories on “Fixing D.C.’s Schools.” 

The Post  is looking at the challenges that the DC school system faces, the history of reform in the system and reform s  that have worked in other urban school districts. An interactive map lets you compare schools in the system based on a number of criteria.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Two Takes on Testing – Is There A Third Way?

We saw an extraordinary exchange on national testing and standards over the weekend in the Washington Post.

The Post editorial page called for national standards while Education Secretary Margaret Spellings responded in an op-ed that states should continue to be allowed to set their own standards, and they will raise standards on their own.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

A Wake-Up Call

Americans like to think that our country is exceptional, and it is. For more than 100 years, we have enjoyed more freedom and economic opportunity than just about anywhere else in the world.

Families today may be worried about health care, gas prices, and the war in Iraq, but they never doubt that we will pass on America’s legacy of freedom and opportunity to the next generation.

There’s a new report on the American economy that is raising some real red flags. No one likes bad news, but if we care about our children and our country, we better pay attention to this report.

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Friday, June 8, 2007

A Map That Shows State-National Test Differences

We found a really interesting tool online today, and I’m not going to say much except check it out.

It’s a map from Gannett News Service called “Shortchanging Students: How state tests put image ahead of performance.” I really like that headline.

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates

Ken Mehlman and I sent the following open letter to all of the presidential candidates today. (Ken is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a member of the ED in 08 steering committee. I was chairman of the Democratic National Committee so this is truly a bipartisan effort.)

We encourage you to read it and tell your favorite candidate that you agree with it.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Scores Are Up … Now Let’s Really Get Moving!

Test scores are up since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed.

Those are the headlines in newspapers all over America, from the New York Times to the L.A. Times and from Washington Post to Education Week.

That’s great news, and I’m happy about it.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Good Enough … Compared to What?

Can you do something pretty well, but still not do it good enough?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? It’s like asking, “How good is ‘good enough’?”

A story on CBS News last week has me thinking about these questions. CBS reported on the results of the grade school proficiency tests in Georgia: 87 percent of fourth graders were rated proficient in 2005 on the state test. But when they were graded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam, only 26 percent rated proficient.Keep Reading...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

America’s Dream Harder to Reach

It may be a conceit on our part, but here in America we’re pretty proud that anyone can grow up to be president … or rich and famous … or you fill in whatever measure of success you want.

We don’t just think of this as the land of opportunity, we believe it.

So here comes this article in The Atlantic that suggests that opportunity may be harder to grasp that we have come to expect.

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Monday, June 4, 2007

The First 100 Days: Make Our Schools the Priority

On Friday, I raised some of the questions we thought the presidential candidates should be asked at the latest round of debates.

CNN is now collecting recommendations for what the candidates should make their top priority during the first 100 days.


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Monday, June 4, 2007

Keeping Young Teachers in the Classroom

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it - effective teachers need to be rewarded and given more opportunities for advancement if we want them to stay in the classroom and in front of students.  But sometimes it takes a must-read story to really hammer the point home.


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Friday, June 1, 2007

We Challenge the Candidates: Answer These Questions

This Sunday and next Tuesday, the presidential candidates will converge on New Hampshire for two debates – the Democrats on Sunday and the Republicans on Tuesday.

No one has asked us to moderate either debate, but if they did, these are the questions we would ask...

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Friday, June 1, 2007

ED in 08 Is Hitting the Ground in New Hampshire

We are moving the ED in 08 campaign into a new phase next week. On Monday, we will help open our first field office in Manchester, NH.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Middle Schoolers: High Hopes, Few Clues, Not Much Help

One of the things I want to do with this blog is to share the latest research on our schools and how we might change them for the better.

Some of the studies give us hope while others make us even more determined to make education a national priority in the coming presidential election.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fight China Trade Imbalance … with Education!

Two days ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote a fascinating piece from China where he is visiting his wife’s ancestral home town. It’s hard not to quote the entire thing for you.

His main point is this: China has a huge and growing trade surplus with the U.S. He implies this is because China spends more “building human capital” – he means educating its kids – than we do. The solution: We should “raise our own education standards to meet the competition” – not create trade barriers.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Others Thinking About National Standards

In addition to parades, picnics and lots of car racing, this long Memorial Day weekend brought two new thoughtful pieces about the need for national standards.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

An Argument for Pooling Resources

Long ago, I learned that what one person cannot do alone, regardless of effort, many people together can do with ease. The same applies to states.

A newspaper in Delaware – the News Journal – reported recently that the state has to scrap plans to improve its testing system because it would be too expensive. The new system would have helped teachers give more feedback to help struggling students.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taking Lessons from Africa

I suspect, like a lot of you, it takes me more than a day or two to get through the Sunday New York Times. So let me point out a new (to me) piece from last Sunday’s edition.

The headline is "Africa’s Storied Colleges, Jammed and Crumbling".

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What We Want CAN Be Done

A couple days ago, I introduced you to Lauren Resnick, a professional education researcher; today I want to tell you about a professional observer named Karin Chenoweth. I call her a professional observer because she used to be a columnist for the Washington Post.

Karin has written a new book called "It's Being Done" that speaks to what we think of as the three pillars of the ED in 08 campaign: American standards, effective teachers in every classroom and time and resources for learning.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do-Overs Cost a Lot of Money

When my kids were growing up, they played games that they invented, as all kids do. These sibling rivalries could get very competitive, and the loser would often call for a do-over – a second chance to get it right. Those do-overs didn’t cost anything, except perhaps a little sibling ribbing.

When we talk about do-evers in our schools, however, that gets into real dollars very, very quickly.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Are ‘Basic’ Skills Enough for Today’s World?

I want to introduce you to Lauren Resnick, a very bright woman and a clear thinker about America’s schools. Lauren is the director and senior scientist of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

Over the years, she has given me a lot of very thoughtful advice about standards in education. I really look to her for expertise and inspiration on that topic.


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Friday, May 18, 2007

Candidates’ Focus on College Access Misses the Point

I’ve noticed in recent days a few presidential candidates talking a bit about education. For the most part, they are calling for programs to make it easier for students to get into college.

Now that’s good. Everyone who wants to go to college should have an equal shot at it. No question about that.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

High School Graduates Not Ready for the Work Force

On Tuesday, I pointed out the ACT results showing that only one-fourth of our high school students who take “college prep” courses actually end up ready for college.

What about our youngsters who don’t go to college? Who graduate from high school and head right into the work force?

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but a huge number of them aren’t ready either. (Remember, we’re talking about graduates here. Not dropouts.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History Test Results Prove the Value of Good Measurement

The newspapers this morning were full of stories about the latest results of the national NAEP tests in U.S. history and civics. (You can read about it in The New York Times and Washington Post, or just go straight to the reports at the Department of Education Web site.)

To me, this is a great reminder of the value of good measurement. We go to a doctor to find out the state of our bodily health, and we want an accurate answer.  We take our car to the garage and we want to know its true condition – is it safe?

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Broken Promises

Today the ACT released a study showing that only a quarter of students who take “college prep” courses actually end up ready for college.

Mike Cohen sums up the problem for the New York Times – “Course titles don’t matter nearly as much as what is taught and how it is taught.”  A lot of students take courses called “algebra” that look more like arithmetic.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time for Learning – It Takes Leadership

Yesterday I talked about an elementary school in California where teachers have gone to great lengths to give students more time for learning.  I applauded them, but said it was a shame they had to make so many sacrifices to do it.

That’s why I think we need strong leadership to help schools do what’s right.  Let me swing over to the other side of the country to give an example.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Time and Support for Learning – A California Example

You may have seen that piece on NBC Nightly News last week about the teachers in San Diego, who – on their own – decided their students needed more time for learning. They made a way to use their planning time for more instruction – and they believe it is paying off in better student performance.

This theme – more time and resources for learning will produce more learning – is one of the three issues we are highlighting with the ED in 08 campaign.

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