The Issue of Public Education in America

-Edit this page and contribute information and resources on the economic policies of John McCain and Barack Obama.
  • For ideas on what to contribute, visit the Immigration and Iraq War pages developed by students at the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham Massachusetts.
-Visit our online social network and participate in various discussions about the election

1. Holly, a student at the Noble and Greenough school, offers video in which Obama and McCain discuss their views on public education and embeds it in her class "blog:"
On the same blog Holly writes about the significance of the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

2. The strengths and weaknesses of McCain's position according to Ashleigh, a 10th grade student at Noble and Greenough
McCain wants the complete accountability of public schools and generally supports the No Child Left Behind Act.
a) Strengths of Position:
  • Creates a standard for schools to meet.
  • Standards give equal opportunities for all children in public schools
  • Standards create a goal for schools to reach in order to succeed in the Public Education system.
  • Motivation that public schools did not have before to strive for excellence.
  • School Choice gives children a chance to be comfortable in school and gives them opportunity to have good experience in public education.
  • No longer accepting low standards in school allows for motivation to find a solution to the problem.
  • Giving loans to those in “genuine need” focuses on students who deserve the loans and cannot afford to pay themselves.
b) Weaknesses of Position:
  • If schools cannot meet these standards, they do not get the funding that they need to rise to standard.
  • Successful schools will become more successful, and failing schools will as a result fail more.
  • School Choice would unorganize the school system by trying to keep track of childen’s transfers from different public schools.
  • The way he plans to execute these reforms that he promises is very vague, he does not provide specific plans for future in education.
  • Belief in teaching Ten Commandments in school is not flexible for people with different religious beliefs.
  • Many people would find the absolute accoutability of schools to be unfair especially if they are involved in the failing schools.

What is the purpose of standardized testing in public schools?

In the past years, standardized testing in public schools has been very important. This is to improve academic performance and to boost teacher quality. The schools will be held accountable for what is being taught. The schools that have their scores increasing will be rewarded according to No Child Left Behind, a policy created in 2001.
No Child Left Behind may be helpful, but it is also hard for some students, parents, and teachers. Many people feel that education should adopt a holistic review of the child, be responsive in differences in learning and capacity, and promote a mastery of content that children can use in new context. Also, children work best in an environment where they feel accepted. Lastly, an education system should groom a love of learning and create life long learners. No Child Left Behind leaves all of these behind. Obama and McCain have different views on this and standardized testing.
McCain’s view on this is similar to the current policy. He wants to keep standardized testing in public schools. He wants to add a stronger emphasis on science and math to the standardized tests. Along with this he would like to continue No Child Left Behind. He would like to fix it so that it will focus on areas of testing students with disabilities and non-English speaking students.
Obama’s opinion is completely different. He wants to get rid of standardized testing in public schools. He wants standardized testing in public schools gone because he wants students to learn what they would like to learn instead of what the test wants them to learn. Obama is also against No Child Left Behind. He says that it leaves money behind and that teachers feel betrayed by No Child Left Behind


Candidates' Views on No Child Left Behind

Barack Obama and John McCain both agree that the 2001 "No Child Left Behind Act" put in place by the Bush Administration has flaws to address. The act measured a school’s success by standardized tests. If schools scored higher than usual, they would be rewarded with funding bonuses. argues that test difficulty can fluctuate dramatically from state to state. Difficulty on the tests can even deter expectations- harder ones may expect lower results, and vice versa. It also argues that the act gives funding to schools doing well rather than putting money into those that need more funding. John McCain cites the act as being a good start to public American education. His website,, states that he wants parents to have more power in the public system and students should have the right to choose their own school. Obama claims that the act failed to give good teachers the benefits they deserved. Rather than standardized testing, Obama supports tracking academic work throughout the school year to measure success. Science and math are priorities to the candidate, as America is far behind according to studies and worldwide standardized testing. To address the dropout problem, he wants to create more after-school enrichment opportunities.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Obama's Position on Public Education

- More affordable to go to college
American Opportunity Tax Credit
automatic $4,000 to most kids in America

- Get rid of standardized testing
Not specific enough to each child
Does not give accurate results
- Universal Preschool
start kids with an earlier education
- Change the “No Child Left Behind Act”

- American Opportunity Tax Credit might put a big dent into the economy

- Manpower behind universal preschool
Need a lot of qualified teachers to teach in schools
- Wants a lot more funding, maybe too much?
“I will provide funds for states to implement a broader range of assessments”
“Specifically, he plans to provide funding for 200 new Teacher Residency Programs”
“means providing funding for voluntary, universal preschool programs”
(Provided by “Barack Obama on Education”)

This next section is posted by a different group from Chattanooga, TN. All of their information is not yet posted, and more will be posted on Obama's stance at a later time.

McCain’s Stance on Education
His past votes:
  • Unrestricted block grants--let states decide spending. (Feb 2000)
• Voted NO on $52M for "21st century community learning centers". (Oct 2005)
• Voted NO on $5B for grants to local educational agencies. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education. (Mar 2005)
  • Voted NO on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors. (May 2001)
  • Voted NO on funding student testing instead of private tutors. (May 2001)
  • Voted NO on spending $448B of tax cut on education & debt reduction. (Apr 2001)
  • Voted YES on declaring memorial prayers and religious symbols OK at schools. (May 1999)
  • Voted YES on allowing more flexibility in federal school rules. (Mar 1999)
  • Voted YES on education savings accounts. (Jun 1998)
• Voted YES on school vouchers in DC. (Sep 1997)
• Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education. (Jul 1996)
• Voted YES on requiring schools to allow voluntary prayer. (Jul 1994)
• Voted NO on national education standards. (Feb 1994)
• Focus educational resources to help those with greatest need. (Jul 2001)
• Require state standards, regular assessments, and sanctions. (Jul 2001)
• Support Ed-Flex: more flexibility if more accountable. (Jul 2001)
• Rated 45% by the NEA, indicating a mixed record on public education. (Dec 2003)
• Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005)

Note: NEA is the acronym for the National Education Association

Under -John McCain /Social/ Education

What he says currently:

McCain’s most prominent focuses in education are allowing parents to have more options for public school as well as help for their children, ensuring merit pay for good teachers in troubled schools, investing approximately $750 million into virtual schools, and to improve failing school bureaucracies through competition. Though many of his earlier ideas on education centered on the material taught in individual schools, such as whether or not evolution should be discussed, McCain recently has directed his attention to the issue of the many failing schools in America. In fact, America has been ranked 19th in high school graduations, and number one in total incarcerations. With these negative ratings arising to the surface, McCain is now in favor of choice in competition, or the equal decision for every family to decide which schooling method will fit best for them. During the Saddleback forum Senator McCain quoted, “, I want every American family to have the same choice that Cindy and I made and Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama made as well, and that was, we wanted to send our children to the school of our choice. And charter schools work, my friends. Home schooling works. Vouchers in our nation’s capital works. We’ve got thousands of people in Washington, D.C., that are applying for a voucher system. New York City is reforming.”

Source: transcript from Saddleback forum
Stance information found in

Barack Obama’s Points about Education__

Set up a system of performance pay for teachers
• Zero to Five- A plan that gives a head start to universal preschool
• Will provide affordable High-Quality child care for families
• Reform the No Child Left Behind program
• Help schools that need improvement, not punish them.
• Make math and science a national priority
• Equip poor and struggling districts


To find more:
- If you are interested on the stances of the two presidential candidates concerning education (and other key topics) tune into the Presidential Debate on September 26, on C-Span and other channels telecasting the event. The debate will take place this year in Oxford, Mississippi.

Background Information Regarding Educational Documents

- : a good site about the No Child Left Behind Act

- : the full No Child Left Behind Act

- : a basic overview of what the act is supposed to do

- : Pros and Cons of the Act, and some other general information - quite helpful, though somewhat biased towards the cons.

  • This section was posted by Jenny Snyder, Maurielle Artis, and Rachel Kelly - if you have any comments or concerns about our information, please let us know through the network and we will change it directly.__