New York

McCain's education plan, unveiled today, shows Klein's influence

In just a few moments, Republican presidential candidate John McCain will begin his speech to the NAACP outlining, at long last, his education platform. The highlights have just gone up at McCain’s web site, and at first blush his plan clearly betrays the fact that he consulted with Chancellor Klein while developing it, particularly when it comes to accountability, teacher quality, and who ought to be charged with making school-based decisions.

First, McCain’s platform calls for the focus of accountability to shift from “group averages” to achievement by individual students. Last fall, New York City released for the first time accountability reports for each school based in large part on the progress of individual students. Adopting this approach for No Child Left Behind accountability would be a significant departure for the federal government, and while doing so might alleviate some of the pressures that the “adequate yearly progress” requirement places on schools, it could also introduce new pressures.

McCain proposes to spend 60 percent of federal Title II funds, meant to improve teacher quality, on performance pay for successful teachers and recruitment bonuses for teachers who agree to teach at high-need schools, something that Klein has recently worked hard to muscle into the city’s schools. In addition, McCain plans to use Title II money (5 percent) to help states recruit top college graduates to teaching, including through alternative certification paths such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project. Under McCain’s plan, schools would be able to choose professional development programs on which to spend the remaining 35 percent of Title II funds. Title II funds comprise $3 billion of the federal Department of Education’s roughly $70 billion budget.

McCain’s proposal also echoes Klein’s belief that principals ought to be the “CEOs” of their schools. “The money must be controlled by the leader we hold accountable: the school principal with a single criterion to raise student achievement,” McCain’s press release states. One question voters can ask McCain through the long campaign is how he proposes to make sure that principals spend funds according to federal guidelines. Here in New York, we’ve seen that some principals, once released from funding mandates from above, sometimes try to maximize their budgets by cutting non-essential programming and, more relevant to the question of federal funds, inadequately providing services to students with special needs, including those in special education and those who are learning English.

On the subject of school choice, which makes up the remainder of his education policy, McCain toes the Republican line. He proposes to expand DC’s school voucher program (despite the program’s own evaluation that showed that participants did not do better than those who were rejected). He also promises to invest heavily in virtual learning, distance education, and supplemental services to give students enrollment options outside of the traditional schoolhouse. Unfortunately, McCain’s plan would create ample opportunity for corruption by redirecting federal education funds from schools to businesses.

McCain’s press release suggests that he may disagree with President Bush’s education policy in one key respect: as one of his top advisors recently indicated during a “Meet the Press” appearance, he wants to “fully fund” No Child Left Behind. “John McCain is committed to high standards and accountability, but he is also committed to providing the resources needed to succeed,” the press release reads. Should McCain become the next president, a shift toward funding existing federal requirements would provide welcome relief for strapped school districts.

You can read all of McCain’s speech to the NAACP online.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.