Monday, October 6, 2008
Your Black Education: Obama May Be the Best Candidate for Education
The ethnic communities of America should scale back their expectations on education. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama edges his Republican counterpart Senator John McCain in national education policy, but for different reasons neither may do much to improve American education in the next four years.
The biggest issues are the accessibility of quality schools and teachers, the achievement gap and the drop out rate. In an Oct. 1 statement for the New America Media, Education-Trust West said that the modern workplace requires all to be highly educated especially in math and science. They said a major obstacle to providing this education is the nation’s failure to provide low income students and students of color with their fair share of effective teachers.
Debra Watkins, director of the California Alliance of African American Educators, cannot endorse candidates or offer judgments about their positions, but says that one of the most crucial issues is the gap in test scores between white and Asian students and black and brown students.
Patricia Gandara of UCLA’s School of Education says Obama is more likely to be better for education, “…he ‘gets’ that drop out is a horrendous problem, that access to higher education for all kids is critical to a healthy nation and economy, and I think he understands that the greatest challenge of our time is to bring a high quality education to our most marginalized kids – English Learners, low-income, and minorities. I have not heard that focus from McCain.”
Obama’s most notable initiative is his 0-5 Plan to expand Head Start, an important step in the right direction of preparing all students for success. Students who enter their first year of school behind continue to perform below their peers. Much of the $19 billion Obama would spend in new education spending would go for early education. McCain offers no similar programs.
McCain does better on the issues of teacher quality. He wants to allocate five percent of Title II funding to states to recruit teachers from the top-performing 25 percent of their college class. He would provide bonuses to teachers who volunteer to teach in underperforming schools so long as those teachers’ students show improvement.
Obama, however, surpasses McCain in proposing a more comprehensive plan for recruiting, training and retaining teachers. He offers more detailed plans for attracting college graduates and mid-career recruits to the teaching profession and establishing teacher training programs to supply well-prepared teachers to underperforming schools. Like McCain, he favors increased pay to teachers, those who volunteer to work in inner cities and remote rural areas. Obama would make special effort to recruit math and science graduates to teaching.
Obama also goes beyond McCain in proposing other steps to reduce drop outs. He wants to double funding for after school programs. He supports intervention in middle schools to provide potential drop-outs with mentoring and intensive math and reading instruction.