Obama Supports Positive Changes in Education

Obama Supports Positive Changes in Education


In the past, President Obama has indicated he’d be supportive of teacher merit pay and charter schools. Today, he made that support official in his first major presidential speech on education:

His solutions include teacher pay and charter school proposals that have met resistance among members of teachers unions, which constitute an important segment of the Democratic Party.

Obama acknowledged that conflict, saying, “Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though we know it can make a difference in the classroom.”

Despite their history on the issues, union leaders publicly welcomed Obama’s words, saying it seems clear he wants to include them in his decisions in a way President George W. Bush did not.

Teachers unions might be wise enough not to sound bitter today, but make no doubt they will fight Obama’s “teacher pay” idea if the president is indeed talking about merit pay and not just better pay for certified teachers. And it seems quite likely, based on the statement, that Obama is talking about linking bonuses and raises to in-classroom performance — an important change which teachers unions would do well to help implement rather than keep resisting.

In addition to wanting to allow for more charter schools, Obama also said he’d like to see the time students spend in public schools increased. While he didn’t specifically reference the fact that our nation still operates the school year on an agrarian calendar, his willingness to support more time in the classroom is a positive sign that our nation might finally consider adopting a school schedule in line with modern realities, with breaks spaced out through the year and not lumped together in the summer.

All in all, Obama’s education speech was more a description of his education philosophy and not an announcement of any new programs. However, it’s great to see he is leaning towards ideas whose time have come.

  • http://www.mariopiperni.com/ political issues

    I’ve got a feeling that education reform is going to be one of the hallmarks of the Obama presidency. This is an issue which the president has given every indication he’s serious about. Let’s hope his vision takes flight.

  • kranky kritter

    I agree Alan. I think Obama hit many of the right points head on.

    Optimizing the calendar is a sensible step. And I support both charter schools and some form of merit pay, as long as there’s flexibility built in for teachers so that they are not given motivation to “outsource” poor achievers for the sake of making their performance look good.

    In general, I support measuring student performance and improvement and then regarding that as a reflection of teacher performance. However, I do see some problem where those outside education lack familiarity with the tools, mechanics and dynamics of education. This is the only way I can account for what I see as somewhat unrealistic expectations when it comes to assessment. Student assessment is indeed crucially important, but even the best tools are flawed and limited, and so any plans tied to assessment ought to be crafted by folks who truly understand assessment. This would, for example, lead to favoring a fair amount of assessment of a form that is more expensive and individualized, as opposed to standardized. The more rote and mechanical and easily gradeable the assessment are, the more incomplete the measurement of aptitude is, IMO. It’s a REAL problem.

    Further, any merit pay system has to find a reasonable way to account for differences in the nature of the student body that each teacher must work with. Many teachers of low income student populations with high turnover rates face unique challenges that put a substantial component of the outcomes of their students well beyond their control, at least currently. Reform must address that.

    One thing that I think would be useful on this count would be the development of some sort of standardized national tracking of students so that every student has a standard easily digestible report that summarizes his or her strengths and weaknesses and tracks the progress made addressing the weaknesses. I also think the establishment of some sort of national assessment wiki would go a long way in helping educators themselves contribute to the development of both teaching content and assessment materials.

  • ExiledIndependent

    Great to hear an emphasis on education; hopeful that the unions will fall in line. Tougher challenge is a cultural one. Need to create culture that places high value and prestige on education.