TRANSCRIPT: The Democratic Debate

DODD: Taking snapshots of schools and teachers and students is not measuring how we're doing here. We need a far better approach on No Child Left Behind. I'm offering those ideas. The idea of discriminating one group of teachers against another in that regard, I think is a huge mistake and I'd oppose it.

(APPLAUSE)

YEPSEN: Senator Obama, performance-based pay. How would you do that without alienating the teacher's unions?

OBAMA: Well, I've had a lot of discussions with teachers all throughout Iowa. And they feel betrayed and frustrated by No Child Left Behind. And Chris is right: We shouldn't reauthorize it without changing it fundamentally.

We left the money behind for No Child Left Behind, and so there are school districts all across the state and all across the country that are having a difficult time implementing No Child Left Behind. And teachers are extraordinarily frustrated about how their performance is assessed.

And not just their own performance, but the school's performance generally. So they're teaching to the tests all the time. What I have said is that we should be able to get buy-in from teachers in terms of how to measure progress.

OBAMA: Every teacher I think wants to succeed. And if we give them a pathway to professional development, where we're creating master teachers, they are helping with apprenticeships for young new teachers, they are doing more work, they are involved in a variety of other activities, that are really adding value to the schools, then we should be able to give them more money for it.

But we should only do it if the teachers themselves have some buy-in in terms of how they're measured. They can't be judged simply on standardized tests that don't take into account whether children are prepared before they get to school or not, which is also one of the reasons why we've got to put more money into early childhood education.

(APPLAUSE)

YEPSEN: Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, I have long supported incentive pay for school wide performance. You know, what we're trying to do is to change the culture within schools and to provide the resources, the training and the support that teachers need to do the job they do want to do.

And particularly focusing on kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, I think you have to start with preschool, even before pre-kindergarten.

CLINTON: I've advocated universal pre-kindergarten. I think you have to start even earlier to try to help the family be the best school and teaching opportunity for their own children.

You have to reform No Child Left Behind. We're going to try to do that and begin to make it much more in line with the reality of teaching.

But I think that we've got to have a real conversation with our teachers, our students and our parents, because basically you can walk in a classroom today and it looks very much like the classroom I walked into, you know, 50 years ago.

And we have changed as a nation. We don't live and work the same way. But we act as though our schools are somehow off limits to trying to bring technology and other changes to them.

YEPSEN: Governor Richardson?

RICHARDSON: Well, you asked the question, are we for merit pay for teachers? No, I'm not for it. But what we need to do is pay our teachers better. They are disrespected.

(APPLAUSE)

RICHARDSON: I have proposed a minimum wage for our teachers, $40,000 per year.

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