An Education Wishlist for Obama's State of the Union

Posted by Liz Dwyer

obama.sotu
President Obama's widely expected to talk about immigration, the economy, and gun control during tonight's State of the Union, and if his previous State of the Union addresses are any indication, education is sure to get some attention, too. 

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers asked a collection of notable "writers, activists and academics to write parts of President Obama's speech" touching on a range of critical issues and NYU education professor and education historian Diane Ravitch took on plenty of education's hottest topics.

Ravitch, writing as Obama, said the that the first priority has to be ending the emphasis on standardized testing in America's schools and the use of them to evaluate.

"I have said it before and I will say it again: We want teachers to teach with creativity and passion. I call on states not to pay bonuses to teachers to produce higher test scores and to stop evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. We now realize that this causes teaching to the test. That must stop now. Of course, teachers should be evaluated, but they should be evaluated by other professionals, not by their students’ test scores."

Ravitch/Obama also calls for renewed emphasis on supporting public schools since they're an "essential institution of our democratic society," saying,

"I am firmly opposed to vouchers. I will cancel federal subsidies to any charter school that does not seek out and enroll students with disabilities and students who have dropped out. I call on the states to prohibit for-profit schools and for-profit management of schools. Every dollar taken from taxpayers must go to classrooms, not to investors."

And surely no education reformer can dispute the facts on early childhood education and child poverty. Ravitch/Obama rightly calls out the fact that the "United States leads the advanced nations of the world in child poverty" and she's right to assert that "we must dedicate ourselves to reducing it." And, as a nation, we should be thoroughly embarrassed that we are 24th "in the world in providing early childhood education and are 131st "out of 184 nations in assuring prenatal care for pregnant women." This matters since, "When all our children start school healthy and ready to learn, we will be a better society with better schools."

Those kind of statements would be welcome to the ears of most progressive educators, including Obama's old mentor, Bill Ayers—who offered a similar wishlist after the President's reelection. Will we hear anything similar tonight?

Photo via spirit of america / Shutterstock.com