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Obama, Education, And Accountability

In his column yesterday, David Brooks came to the same conclusion I did in my March article on Barack Obama's education record: That while Obama has a long history of aligning himself with the reform-minded education policy crowd, his campaign rhetoric on the subject has been rather muted and equivocal. One of the specific charges Brooks makes, though, isn't quite fair to Obama. Brooks writes:

[W]hen you look at the actual proposals Obama offers, he’s doesn’t really address the core issues. He’s for the vast panoply of pre-K and after-school programs that most of us are for. But the crucial issues are: What do you do with teachers and administrators who are failing? How rigorously do you enforce accountability? Obama doesn’t engage the thorny, substantive matters that separate the two camps.

But in his big education speech in New Hampshire in November, Obama was remarkably clear about where he comes down on these questions:

Now, if we do all this and find that there are teachers who are still struggling and underperforming, we should provide them with individual help and support. And if they're still underperforming after that, we should find a quick and fair way to put another teacher in that classroom.

That's about as unambiguous a statement in favor of accountability as you'll see a Democratic politician make. And now that Obama's achieved his goal of surviving the Deomcratic primary without incurring the wrath of the teachers' unions, it'll be interesting to see if he plays up his reformist credentials a bit more. 

--Josh Patashnik