Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

NCLB Outrages

Kerry says True Reform Calls for a Plan

Ohanian Comment: Kerry's plan is "better tests?"

How about raising the minimum wage? Making sure every schoolchild lives in a home where working people receive a living wage?

Better tests are not going to close the achievement gap, and if you want to see why, read Richard Rothstein's Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap, much more worthy and useful than Kerry's empty and deceitful political rhetoric.

We may decide we have to vote for the guy but let's not accept his education bombast.

True Reform Calls for a Plan
by John Kerry

America's greatest promise is its simplest: the opportunity for all of our children to fulfill their God-given potential.

Nothing is more critical to that promise than education. Regardless of income, race or neighborhood, America's families should be able to send their children to top-notch public schools that challenge students with high standards, nurture them with loving care and give them the skills they will need to succeed.

We're a long way from that goal. But I know we can get there.

No Child Left Behind made an important promise -- asking more from schools and making sure they can get the job done.

Today that promise is being broken. When I am president, we will fulfill it. That means providing the resources to hire more teachers, buy more textbooks and develop better tests that measure all of the skills children need. It also means making sure the law works for our kids. After sharp criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, President Bush changed key rules so they imposed high standards but reflected common sense. We need to continue on the path of progress and help turn around schools in trouble, not just dictate to them.

The biggest mistake would be to believe one law can do the job. But No Child Left Behind is only one step.

That's why I've offered a plan to finish the job of education reform. My plan will help put a great teacher in every classroom -- by offering teachers more training, support and pay, especially when they go into struggling schools or excel in the classroom.

We'll also establish better tests for new teachers and ensure fast, fair ways to make sure those who don't belong in the classroom don't stay there. My plan will invest in after-school programs that give students extra help and give parents peace of mind. We'll set high standards for graduating more students -- tracking schools' progress more carefully and tutoring more children on the edge of failure. And we will rebuild the schools that are falling apart.

I've always said reform without resources is a waste of time, but resources without reform are a waste of money. When I'm president, we'll have both -- and we'll give our children the opportunities they deserve.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Here's USA Today's Answer.

List Kerry as Absent on School Accountability

Bridget Dean, principal of Barrister Elementary School in Baltimore's impoverished Pigtown neighborhood, has something to say to critics who claim the federal school-accountability law is too harsh and unfair to poor and minority students: You're wrong.

Tough love, Dean says, is how Barrister catapulted off the state's ''watch list'' of troubled schools. In two years, reading scores more than doubled, and math scores nearly doubled. Dean's formula: Use curriculums proven by research and embrace unpopular testing that prods all students to learn. Dean credits the strategies of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which President Bush championed, for the success of her students.

But the law could face an uncertain future if Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry wins the White House. One of his key supporters, the 2.7-million-member National Education Association (NEA), opposes the law. In fact, the teachers union's president, Reg Weaver, has declared war on it.

Kerry bashed the law during the primaries and complains that it is underfunded, though he voted for it and says he favors the tough accountability provisions at its core. But he hasn't campaigned for a principle advanced by Bush and rejected by the NEA, reinforcing critics' portrait of him as a waffler.

He can shed that reputation by creating another ''Sister Souljah moment.'' In 1992, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton attacked the African-American rapper for suggesting that blacks kill whites instead of other blacks. His criticism angered black Democratic Party leaders, but made him look independent and decisive.

Kerry's ''moment'' would look like this: He thanks the NEA for fielding one of the largest grassroots operations on his behalf, then tells the teachers going door to door for his campaign that a Kerry administration would make the law even tougher.

Kerry, who favors several sound educational reforms, is far from that stance now. His Web site calls for weakening accountability measures to include factors other than student academic achievement, such as attendance and parental satisfaction.

Kerry's aides say the Web site is outdated because some of the law's requirements were eased recently. They say they'll soon post a new position that calls for strengthening the law by focusing on such areas as poor graduation rates.

But Kerry has downplayed accountability on the stump. Perhaps that's because many educators who back him dislike key principles that make the law effective:

* Stressing race and income. In the past, weak performances by poor and minority students were masked by schools' average scores of more affluent students. Basing accountability on race and income forces educators to put more effort into teaching students who have been long ignored.

* Switching to proven curriculums. Many teachers have complained about the adoption of highly scripted reading programs such as those used by Dean's school, saying they are too rote. Yet they produce successful readers in high-poverty schools.

* Keeping accountability focused on academics. The NEA says standardized math and reading tests to measure education achievements produce ''one size fits all'' accountability. Still, academic testing remains the best way to assess progress.

There's pride in Pigtown over Barrister's accomplishments. Kerry can show he's with the school in more than spirit.Today's debate: Improving public educationDemocratic candidate flip-flops on Bush's education-reform law.

— Senator John Kerry
USA Today


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.