From Testing to Merit Pay, McCain Advisers Lays Out His Education Thinking
By Maria Glod
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) hasn't said much about how to fix America's schools. But an adviser yesterday said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee supports using federal dollars for teacher merit pay and wants to change the No Child Left Behind law championed by President Bush.
Lisa Graham Keegan, former Arizona superintendent of public instruction and a McCain education policy adviser, said McCain wants annual testing to stay, and that schools would continue to be required to report those scores. But she said he wants educators to have more say in how to fix struggling schools.
"The federal government cannot position itself continually as the bully in this," Keegan told a group of reporters today at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit involved in education reform. "No more will we say that's what 50 states are going to do, because he doesn't believe that's our best hope for improvement."
Under the law Bush signed in 2002, schools that don't meet test score goals for two consecutive years must allow students to transfer to higher-performing schools. Schools that fall short for three years must offer private tutoring to children from low-income families. More sanctions follow.
McCain envisions a system in which students have access to tutoring and choice long before their school is labeled as failing, Keegan said. States also could pitch innovative reforms.
As for the law's key goal of having all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, Keegan said it is not clear whether it would change. But, she added, "That date is something that everybody's nudging and winking about."
Bush promoted school reform often in his 2000 campaign, but McCain has not stressed the issue. Keegan said to stay tuned. "The dialogue about the nature of that plan is one that the senator wants to have himself, and he wants to have it when he thinks it will get best heard and he thinks that's around back-to-school time."
Posted at 5:06 PM ET on Jun 12, 2008
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