Thursday, September 27, 2012

Presidential Campaign 2012: The Future of Education

For those interested in the future
of all our children's education:
President Barack Obama’s and Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s views on education. 

Both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney were interviewed earlier this week about their ideas for the future of American education as part of NBC News' "Education Nation" Summit. Savannah Guthrie interviewed President Obama, and Brian Williams interviewed Governor Mitt Romney. Below are excerpts from the  interviews.  Links to the full interview transcripts are included following the excerpts.

President Barack Obama discusses education in an interview with
NBC's Samantha Guthrie September 24, 2012. Photo
“Well, the key is to work with teachers. When you look at what's happening in Denver, for example, School District, teachers have embraced the idea of merit pay for teachers who are really doing a great job. But what is still a challenge, and I think teachers have a legitimate gripe here, is making sure that the assessments are done properly, that it's not just based on standardized tests, which, oftentimes, forces schools to teach to the test.

And one of the reasons that we have sought reforms to No Child Left Behind. I think it had great intentions. I give President Bush credit for saying, "Let's raise standards and make sure that everybody's trying to meet them." But because so much of it was tied just to standardized testing, what you saw across the country was teaching to the test.

And I-- I can't tell you how many teachers I meet who say, "You know what? This makes school less interesting for kids. And as a consequence, I'm ending up really shrinking my curriculum, what I can do in-- in terms of creativity inside of the classroom." And that's not how you or I, for example, when we think about our best teachers, we don't think about studying a bunch of tests to see how we're going to score on a standardized test.”

Presidential Candidate
Mitt Romney
Republican presidential candidate ,Mitt Romney is interviewed by
NBC newsman Brian Williams at the NBC Education Nation Summit
in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.
Photo: Evan Vucci / AP
AUDIENCE QUESTION 5: Hi, my name is Nick Hilgoyle (ph). I'm a high school student from New York and I just wrote a book on education.

My question is considering that the advent of standardized testing has increased to historic levels, causing a lot of teaching to the test, billions of dollars into testing and really the killing of creativity in many ways, how would you as president change this trend and how do you put students directly in your administration and let them have a voice in this policy decision-making process?

ROMNEY: First of all, you will find throughout your life that there are tests, and I don't know a way to evaluate the progress of students other than by evaluating it through testing of some kind or another.

If there are tests that are ineffective or that measure things that are not really relevant, why, obviously, you try to improve the test but you'll have an SAT when you graduate from high school, you'll -- if you want to go into graduate school you'll have an advanced test, GMAT or other test and you'll find throughout your life that there are going to be tests.

And we always complain about them. I complained about them when I was a student. And we don't like tests but there's really no other way we found out to determine whether a student is succeeding or not succeeding and, frankly, whether the teacher is succeeding or not succeeding. So I don't have a better model than saying we're going to evaluate our kids through some kind of a testing system.

When I became governor of mass, we had this graduation exam. I took it because I would hear from teachers we're having to teach to the tests. I took the exam -- and I passed it, by the way, but --


ROMNEY: -- although I took it at home so no one really got to see my answers, but, you know, when it got to the math section, there was geometry, algebra, calculus, trigonometry. I mean, these are the topics there. I don't know what teaching to the test would mean if it were not teaching basic math skills.

On the language side, I read paragraphs and then I wrote down or -- excuse me -- I checked off the things I'd seen in the paragraph. If teaching to the test means learning how to read and write and learning how to do basic math skills, then there's nothing terribly wrong with that. I added science and so people are going to get tested in biology and geology and so forth. This is part of what we expect schools to do.

What I was concerned about before we had these kind of tests is that we might have faculty members go off on a completely different tangent from the basic math and English and science skills our kids need to succeed.

So I'm not going to replace testing. I would love to improve it. That's why when No Child Left Behind was passed the author said we'll let each state create your own test and evaluate how well students are doing.

But I'm going to keep in place the testing. And as with regards to student involvement, I hope students are very involved in the political process and in the process of the quality of your education. I would love to have the students grade the teachers at the end of the year as opposed to just the other way around so that teachers get feedback.

We did that when I got to graduate school. We got to grade the teachers and then it was published. They put it up for the whole school to see in business school, how each teacher did on a whole series of dimensions and it helped. It helped the teachers. I think -- I believe in a lot of feedback.

So far from being a guy who would say let's stop testing, I'd just try and make our testing more effective, expand it in ways that maybe haven't been thought of before and recognize we need to drive the quality of education and it's one tool we have to do it.

To read the complete transcript of President Obama's interview with Savannah Guthrie at NBC News' "Education Nation," click here

To read the complete transcript of Governor Romney's interview with Brian Williams at NBC News' "Education Nation," click here.