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June 8, 2008

On education, McCain & Obama may not be far apart

Greg Toppo:

Jeanne Century, director of Science Education, Research and Evaluation at the University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE), is an adviser to Obama. Lisa Graham Keegan, the former superintendent of public instruction in Arizona and a two-term member of the Arizona House of Representatives, has McCain's ear on educational issues.

To anyone casually observing the two in an effort to divine differences between the candidates, the disagreements seemed small.

  • Both Obama and McCain believe in rigorous standards and rich curricula to help students compete in a global economy. Century even suggested that American kids should be "trilingual," not just bilingual, to compete with the rest of the world.
  • Both candidates support publicly funded, but privately run, charter schools.
  • For now at least, both oppose using taxpayer dollars for large-scale voucher programs. (In a later session with reporters, though, Keegan pointed out that McCain actually supported the push in 2003 for a small-scale voucher that now operates in Washington, D.C., public schools. She added that if a state asked McCain to support a voucher program, "he might be supportive." But she said he doesn't currently support changing the provisions of No Child Left Behind to allow for private school vouchers. Currently, students in under-performing schools can get taxpayer dollars for free tutoring or transfer to a better-performing public school.)
  • Speaking of No Child Left Behind, both candidates would tweak it in ways that, for the most part, only education wonks can appreciate. They'd both fund it differently. Keegan says McCain would figure out more efficient, focused ways to spend what she says is NCLB's "unprecedented" increase in funding to schools. Century says Obama believes NCLB "was insufficiently funded and poorly implemented."
They both bemoan the law's inability to ensure that low-income children get high-quality teachers and they'd both push for so-called "value added" provisions that would give schools credit for test score gains that children make each year, even if all children don't meet a pre-set proficiency goal in reading or math.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 8, 2008 4:33 AM
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