Flypaper

Here are a few off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts about John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate:

1. Clearly he wasn't looking for someone with a national profile on education. That should surprise no one; how many times do we have to stress that this election ain't about schools? Still, it's noteworthy that both Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty-the favorites to get the nod-built a strong track record on education. Palin might care about the issue but it's hard to know yet; from the little that I could find it appears that she's fairly conventional on the topic, voicing support for more funding, charter schools, homeschooling, and support for teachers.

2. Don't expect to hear a lot about inner-city schools. Let's see, we have a presidential candidate without much education experience, and a vice presidential candidate from Alaska. I'm not sure either one...

If the candidates aren't going to take my advice, surely the National Education Association isn't going to either. But still, let me offer one suggestion to its executive director, John Wilson: Find a different line of attack against merit pay than this one:

The unions oppose [merit pay] because it puts too much emphasis on one measure and doesn't consider factors outside teachers' control, John Wilson, the executive director of the 3.2-million-member NEA, said in an interview here.

"It's very tough to hold the faculty accountable for test scores without holding students and parents accountable," he said.

That's a great point, John. Let's figure out a way to hold third-graders "accountable" for learning to read. "Suzy, until you decode those ten words, no recess for you!" Or parents: "Mr. Smith, we're going to garnish your wages unless you show up...

Liam Julian

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein writes today about Michelle Rhee's proposed teacher-pay plan.

Sure, there will be times when teachers will be treated in an arbitrary and capricious way if they give up their tenure rights. Guess what: It happens all the time in the private sector, where hiring, promotion and pay decisions are sometimes made with incomplete information, favoritism, or undue emphasis on one factor or another. But despite this imperfection, despite the numerous instances of unfairness and poor judgment, somehow the vast majority of Americans manage to find a job, move up the ladder and enjoy their work, and companies manage to operate successfully and turn a profit. Pretty incredible, huh?

Yesterday, I bet that Barack Obama wouldn't mention NCLB in his acceptance speech, nor would he say much about education at all. I was right on the first count and wrong on the second. Here's what he said about k-12 schools:

America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.

I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

No, it wasn't a major part of his speech--his segment on healthcare was about twice as long--but it was more attention for education than he gave, say, judges.

Don't expect John McCain to say "No Child Left Behind" next week either. With the bases of both parties dead-set against the law,...

This must be a first: a New York Times blog post about a blog post about a phone call about a blog post.

The world has truly changed forever....

The newest issue of Education Next* has just gone online, and one of my favorite articles is this one about the early educational experiences of the presidential candidates. Its author, Peter Meyer, writes,

We might ponder the fact that neither John McCain nor Barack Obama had the experience of attending the public school down the street, standard fare for most Americans. Just how the two candidates' early schooling informs their assumptions and beliefs about education reform is hard to know, but their stories provide an interesting window through which to view their policy beliefs.

Read those stories here.

*I'm part of its editorial team....

No more wooly-headed education reform ideas from me. In today's Education Gadfly I wager

...that a majority of teachers in remote rural schools and mid-sized urban communities will continue to come from the middle ranks of middling colleges. Or worse. So policymakers and philanthropists might ask: what can we do to make sure that their students get a strong education too?

Read the whole piece here....

Liam Julian

What you can expect from this week's Gadfly: Mike tells us what to do about mediocre teachers, we uncover lots of anti-union liberals in Denver (and Australia), and Christina tells us why we shouldn't throw a party for the College Board. Over on the podcast, Stafford brings us a dazzling new segment, called Rate That Reform.

According to this article in today's Washington Post, Democrats on Capitol Hill are starting to work with Barack Obama's policy staff to craft a legislative agenda for 2009.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has assigned her committee chairmen to begin with low-hanging fruit to build confidence and provide a new, young president quick legislative victories.

How much do you wanna bet that reauthorizing No Child Left Behind isn't on this list of low-hanging fruit?

If I were advising either presidential candidate--which I'm not--I'd tell them to say as little as possible on education. Partly that's because of the electorate: Americans are focused on other things, what with $4-per-gallon gas and flat-lining wages. And partly that's because of policy: it's hard for a candidate for federal office to talk about schools and not mention the big gorilla in the room: the No Child Left Behind Act. But the bases in both parties hate the law, yet neither candidate wants to run away from it entirely. So they keep mum. Good idea.

Dan Gerstein, a onetime aide to Senator Joe Lieberman and a consultant to Democrats for Education Reform, disagrees. He took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal yesterday to urge Barack Obama to make education a key part of his acceptance speech:

The ideal issue for Mr. Obama to focus on in the speech and beyond, as Mayor Bloomberg can attest, is education. No challenge is more consequential for our country than closing the achievement gap in our urban schools and raising the competitiveness of our workforce. And no special interest has done more to stand in the way of change

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