Review by: Bethany Wiles
Graduate Student in Adult Education
University of Southern Maine

Change, the promise Obama made throughout his presidential campaign, is prevalent within the Obama-Biden education plan discussed in the Education Week Guide, The Obama Education Plan. The outlined education plan, stories of practice, and commentary included within the book take the readers through the educational changes the Obama Education Plan supports.  

A strength of the book is how it covered a child’s academic career from infancy to college graduate. This helps the reader understand the progression of the student and how starting out at a disadvantage can snowball into an almost impossible situation for graduating high school and continuing to higher education. Poverty, within the student’s family and within the school system, is one of the biggest disadvantages. 

The book detailed the pitfalls of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The Obama-Biden plan that covers NCLB reform is included in chapter 2. This includes ensuring accountability for individual student growth from year to year, making the shift from teaching to the test to teaching to students’ developmental needs, and how to support schools that fail to meet the standards instead of punishing them. Success stories from different schools across the country gave the reader hard evidence of the practices President Obama would like to implement in order to avoid or counter-balance the disadvantages mentioned above.  

The lack of discussion surrounding students with disabilities was disappointing; especially given that a teacher from Charlestown High in Boston Massachusetts stated, “one in five of the district’s students is classified as having disabilities” (p. 146). The one paragraph dedicated to supporting students with disabilities is on page 219. The second disappointment within the book was its discussion of the need for increased funding without providing a proposal for how additional funds can be generated. The reader is left wondering what cuts must be made in order to put the Obama-Biden Education Plan in place. 

Academic advisors can learn a great deal of information regarding the background of their students from this book. In addition, advisors can learn the positive impact innovative schools have had on student development and how advisors can foster a positive environment for students’ continued academic and personal development.  A vice chancellor of academic affairs at a university in New Orleans stated it simply, “I think universities are useless if we don’t reach out to these schools and these students early on to connect them to higher education and to demonstrate what is possible” (p. 65). 

When advisors are involved with students’ academic goals before they reaches their freshman year, then they build trust between the student, the institution, and the advisor. Advisors can work hand-in-hand with the “postsecondary coaches” established within some high schools to assist the students to be “college ready.” Some successful middle and high schools programs portrayed in the book included after-school programs that provide additional support to the students. To build on this example, advisors could set up peer mentoring programs to help provide students’ with support within academics as well as with the transition from high school to college.   

I would recommend the book to academic advisors interested in change within the education system, bearing in mind that funding will always be an issue.

The Obama Education Plan (An Education Week Guide). (2009). Review by: Bethany Wiles. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 240 pp, $14.95. ISBN 978-0-470-48209-4
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