Monday, January 28

Just the Facts: Edwards Education Plan

"There is nothing more important to our future than our country's schools. We all pay a price when young people who could someday find the cure for AIDS or make a fuel cell work are sitting on a stoop because they didn't get the education they needed." -- John Edwards

John Edwards offers a comprehensive education plan that starts with the educational needs of children at the preschool level. His focus on qualified teachers and successful schools is just one element of raising the bar for education in this country. He is also an advocate for raising graduation rates and providing the necessary funds to see special education programs fully funded. You can read John Edwards' education plan in its entirety on his campaign web site.

Offer Universal "Great Promise" Preschool to Four-Year-Olds

  • Teach academic skills
  • Develop children's language abilities and introduce them to early math, reading, and other academic concepts, as well as help develop their social and emotional skills.
  • Start in needy communities
  • Be led by excellent teachers
  • Involve parents and their families
  • Be voluntary and universally affordable

Create National Smart Start
Promotes the healthy development of children under the age of five. It helps local partnerships make child care higher quality and more affordable, provides health services and supports families. Participating children show better cognitive and language skills and fewer behavioral problems.

Smart Start will:

  • Link together health care, child care, education, and family support services for children under five.
  • Perform health care outreach for young children to get screening for health problems related to hearing, speech, vision, dental, and learning disabilities.
  • Sponsor home visits to new families to improve prenatal health and the quality of caregiving after birth.

An Excellent Teacher in Every Classroom

  • Raise Pay by up to $15,000 More for Teachers in High-Poverty Schools.
  • Help states and school districts improve working conditions and increase time for teacher collaboration and planning.
  • Address barriers for teachers moving between states by encouraging reciprocal credentials and studying ways to make pension plans compatible.
  • Create a National Teacher University
  • Help Teachers in Their Early Years
  • Reduce Class Sizes
  • Train More Excellent Principals
  • Use Highly Qualified Teachers for Tutoring

Overhaul No Child Left Behind

  • Better tests:Rather than requiring students to take cheap standardized tests, Edwards believes that we must invest in the development of higher-quality assessments that measure higher-order thinking skills, including open-ended essays, oral examinations, and projects and experiments.
  • Broader measures of school success: Edwards believes that the law should consider additional measures of academic performance. The law should also allow states to track the growth of students over time, rather than only counting the number of students who clear an arbitrary bar, and give more flexibility to small rural schools.
  • More flexibility: Edwards will give states more flexibility by distinguishing between schools where many children are failing and those where a particular group is falling behind. He will also let states implement their own reforms in under performing schools when there is good reason to believe that they will be at least equally effective.

Launch a "Great Schools" Initiative to Build and Expand 1,000 Successful Schools Across America, there are public schools that are helping children from all backgrounds succeed, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, small schools, and other models. Edwards will help 250 schools a year expand or start new branches. Federal funds will support new buildings, excellent teachers, and other needs. Among the schools he will support are:

  • Small schools: Small high schools create stronger communities, reducing adolescent anonymity and alienation and encouraging teachers to work together. At 47 new small high schools recently opened in New York City, graduation rates are substantially higher than the citywide average. Communities can establish multiple schools within an existing facility, build new schools, and reopen old facilities.
  • Early college high schools: High schools on college campuses let students earn both a high school diploma and an associates degree (or two years of transfer credit) in only five years. In North Carolina, Governor Mike Easley's Learn and Earn initiative raises rigor and aspirations, reduces tuition costs, and relieves overcrowded college campuses.
  • Economically integrated schools: While income diversity is not a substitute for racial diversity, low-income students perform best when in middle-class schools where they are more likely to have experienced teachers and classmates with high aspirations. States can build magnet schools in low-income communities and create incentives for middle-class schools to enroll more low-income children.

Create a School Success Fund to Turn Around Struggling Schools
Edwards will ask teams of experienced educators to spend a year at struggling schools helping start reforms. These educators will tailor comprehensive solutions to each school, rather than adopting silver bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions.

  • Provide resources to implement them: Some schools need more resources to help their children succeed. Resources will be available to recruit new school leadership and a core of excellent teachers, reduce class sizes, duplicate proven models, strengthen the curriculum, and other reforms.
  • Emphasize extra learning time. Due to our 180-day school year, American children spend much 25 percent less instructional time than other countries, which adds up to more than two years by the end of high school. When combined with making better use of learning time and designed with educators, longer school days and years create new opportunities for children to master the basics and a broader curriculum.
  • Establish stronger academic and career curricula. Edwards believes that all schools – even those in small, isolated, and high-poverty areas – should have access to challenging Advanced Placement courses. And he will support partnerships between high schools and community colleges to help high school students get the training they need for the good jobs where skilled workers are in short supply today.

Meet the Promise of Special Education
More than thirty years ago, Congress committed to fund 40 percent of the excess cost of educating children with disabilities, but it provides less than half that amount. George Bush has proposed a $300 million cut. Edwards opposes the Bush cuts and supports getting on a path toward meeting the federal promise.

Raise Graduation Rates
Edwards will create multiple paths to graduation such as Second Chance schools for former dropouts and smaller alternative schools for at-risk students. He will focus on identifying at-risk students and support the Striving Readers literacy program and one-on-one tutoring to keep them in school. Edwards will also fund additional guidance counselors in high-poverty schools.


TCC said...

Lots of funding going on for some new and wonderful ideals...where did he say the money is coming from?

Also...increase in pay for teachers...wouldn't that be a 'given' to some extent if he is going to make the workday longer as well as the school year?

I'm also concerned with measuring the value of a school based on the number of AP courses being offered. AP Teachers will tell you that their time is largely spent teaching to a test rather than providing students with the skills to answer open-ended questions (higher skill level). Seems to contradict the very issue Edwards has with NCLB (mind you there are multiple problems with this act) - where he plans to replace the standardized testing with 'higher quality assessments'. Hmmm...that reminds me of Graduation Projects. Anyone remember those? Just because the name is changed doesn't mean it's different.

Having said all of that...I don't know if I am really going to love anyone's plan. I don't think there is a perfect solution - especially because we are a country who holds fast to the ideal that everyone should receive a free and appropriate education and then we compare ourselves to countries that do not.

Regardless, thank you for dedicating a week to this issue.

As an aside - do you think anyone will be bold enough to include holding parents accountable in their plan? Probably not. You can't 'fire' a parent for not being involved in their child's education. Besides they're the one's whose vote is desired and it's just so much easier to play the blame game.

Anonymous said...

Funding inequality. That's the big education issue for me. We may not segregate based on race anymore, but we segregate based on economic status. Poor districts spend a fraction of what richer districts are able to spend per student. When you have schools with no library, old textbooks, poorly trained teachers and not even a 3-pronged outlet in the classroom, those students are at a vast disadvantage, on top of the challenges they face coming from unsupportive homes.


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