Friday, June 13, 2008

Where does Obama really stand on education reform?

David Brooks in his New York Times column asks the question about Obama that's becoming a mantra: "Is Barack Obama really a force for change, or is he just a traditional Democrat with a patina of postpartisan rhetoric?"

Brooks' particular issue is education. He says there's the "status quo camp," which takes the conventional approach calling for smaller classes, better instruction and better teacher training, and the "reformist camp," which calls for major structural change that includes more accountability both from students and teachers.

So far, Brooks says, Obama seems to be straddling both camps. In the education section of his campaign website, Obama has a paragraph on the the dropout crisis. His proposals: "...legislation to provide funding to school districts to invest in intervention strategies in middle school - strategies such as personal academic plans, teaching teams, parent involvement, mentoring, intensive reading and math instruction, and extended learning time."

All the proposals sound good. But I hope Obama will talk -- in detail and straightforwardly -- about parent involvement. This is especially important for minority kids. While the dropout rate for white students is 6 percent, 10.4 percent of black students quit school and 22.4 percent of Hispanic students quit.

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