The Issues at Hand: Education Reform Over the Next Four Years

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shortly following the November elections, a Gallup poll revealed that 68 percent of Americans believe that President Obama will improve education in his second term.

Such optimism isn’t all that surprising considering the emphasis Obama placed on education policy during his first four years, and the support he’s garnered during that time from both sides of the aisle.

And there has already been progress in the new year. In Oregon, early childhood education is the new priority, while New York has already gone into battle over teacher evaluations.

Beth Fertig, education reporter for WNYC, and Rob Manning, reporter for Oregon Public Broadcasting discuss the education issues at the state level and the direction Obama may take going forward.


Beth Fertig and Rob Manning

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman

Comments [8]

Tobias Florencio from

I agree with the comments from Victoria and Larry. Hopefully somebody is listening to reason!

Aug. 01 2013 08:04 PM
education jobs from Dhaka

Whenever Scripture or the findings of science pose a challenge to our belief system, rather than be thrown for a loop, I believe what we need to carefully consider is, "what is the most responsible response?" When the words of Genesis 1 and 2 speak of concepts that do not match our perceptions of reality, our current science, what is the most responsible reaction a Christian can take? Should we toss everything that have believed and conclude that we have been following cunningly devised fables? Should we get angry at scientists for discovering that the world is not flat? Should we reject the findings of science as "the devil's sophistry"? Should we develop whole new disciplines of study that attempt to bridge the gap of ancient cosmologies to our own, through volumes of mental and linguistic gymnastics?

Feb. 23 2013 11:41 PM
Andrew from Bayside

Education reform seems to be the only topic that both democrats and republicans agree on. Both Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama agree that "education is the civil rights issue of our time." The reformers' talking points dominate any coverage of education in the media. I am surprised that WNYC gives such credence to biased reporters, such as Beth Fertig. Her book, 'Why cant U teach me 2 read' makes a strong argument against the confusion in our schools wrought by perpetually changing agendas, lack of funding, and the failure of education policy over the last ten years. However, it seems logically impossible to put the blame for any of these problems on teachers.

Teachers are employees who must follow their superiors' ever changing directives (if they agree with them or not) or face ridicule, punishment, and harassment. Sadly these stories are never covered by any media outlet from left to right. Additionally, what is severely lacking in any education coverage is any sense of debate. Instead, all the cues are coming from politicians, business leaders, or journalists who want to promote their latest book. Where are the voices of the professors of education, active teachers, and real students? There are serious people who have done incredible research into issues in education for much of the last century, however, NONE of these studies are ever mentioned when the media wants to talk about education. If they were covering issues in modern surgery, do you think they would only speak to a journalist and government representative? Why when the topic is education is everybody a treated like a specialist?

I understand that for the highly educated, successful, and cultured segment of our society, failure in school was probably not an issue. We all must realize that spewing out data like "only 30% if the 60+% of NYC students are college ready" is nothing more then a coded anti-union message. The question should be, "who are the students that are not college ready? Are they those young people with learning difficulties or disabilities? Are they those young people who have never heard an intellectual conversation in their home and suffer from a severe lack of vocabulary? Are they those young people who leave school early everyday to work or pick up younger siblings? Are they those young people who do not identify culturally with what school has to offer because they are modeling their behavior on that of their working class families? These are the real questions.

I agree with the comments from Victoria and Larry. Hopefully somebody is listening to reason!

Jan. 22 2013 07:52 PM
Victoria Zunitch from Forest Hills

This reveals two of the many biases in Beth Fertig's and, indeed, most education reporters', work these days.
1. Her bias that early childhood education in its current form...the push-down of academic skills to earlier and earlier an improvement. As opposed to other measures that would improve children's later performance (an emphasis on discovery play and parental vocabuly support during the child's first two years).
2. Her bias that teacher evaluations will improve teacher performance and, by extension, student learning.
3. That it's OK to be silent on curriculum composition, the destruction and disappearance of library collections and library visits with book check-outs in schools, and on the lack of opportunities for brain oxgenation (recess and gym).

Jan. 22 2013 05:45 PM

You should have gotten Alyssia Finley of the Wall Street Journal to contribute to your story. She writes in a paywalled online post at

"Unions in all but a handful of the state's 700 school districts have signed off on evaluations, but the United Federation of Teachers seems to believe it can get a better deal by bargaining in bad faith. The city has complained to the state Public Employment Relations Board that the union is seeking to extort wage increases in negotiations over evaluations, which isn't allowed. Then again, the union doesn't exactly have any incentive to ink a deal.

"Consider that $250 million is a pittance in the city's $25 billion school budget, and if the unions sign off on an agreement this year, the district could very well spend the cash on school reforms that the union opposes. In any case, the union probably figures that any program reductions resulting from diminished state aid will merely spur a public outcry and strengthen their hand in negotiations.

"What's more, there will be a new mayor in town come next January, who will likely be more amenable to the union's concerns. All of the leading candidates for mayor have at one point backed raising taxes on the wealthy to fund schools, among other things. City leaders would need state approval to raise its income tax. However, Democrats hold a majority in the state Assembly and de facto majority in the Senate, so a tax hike wouldn't be a heavy lift in Albany. The teachers union never comes to a fight without something in its back pocket."

Jan. 22 2013 02:16 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

We need to teach parents how to be teachers to their kids and not rely on the system.

At home, when parents guide their kids in topics they are interested in learning, it makes the whole education in school easier for children

Jan. 22 2013 12:26 PM

In listening this morning to Beth Fertig's discussion of the Obama administration's educational record, I note that she equated the new Common Core standards with new testing. It's important to be clear that the CCS are NOT a new testing mechanism--they are about a greater range and depth of what students should be able to do as readers, writers, thinkers and learners across grade level and subject area.

Jan. 22 2013 10:02 AM
Ed from Larchmont

At the start of his first term, as I understand, President Obama said that he would nationalize health care, education, and energy. One down, two to go, for better or worse.

Jan. 22 2013 08:04 AM

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